Old Albanian’s winning streak comes to an end

Sam Lunnon looks to break away

Sam Lunnon looks to break away - Credit: Archant

Old Albanian’s five-match winning run came to an end as they lost 15-10 at Hartpury College on Saturday.

This match could have been a classic example of student guile against Albanian experience, writes Brian Quinn.

Yet the interpretation of the current scrummage laws ensured that any vestige of continuity was gradually beaten out of it and on a pitch which was little short of a bog every possible opportunity was taken to eradicate the effect of this basic facet of the game.

One such interminable restart took fully four minutes to get the ball to the waiting outsides who, after cooling their heels for so long, naturally mishandled and produced yet another scrum.

Worse, as the first half wound down and with a decent shove finally managed, Albanians trundled towards the Hartpury line a scant five metres away.

Only one illegal defensive option remained for the hosts and the scrum duly collapsed.

To the astonishment of all in the ground the penalty was awarded against the visitors and half-time arrived with Hartpury three points to the good courtesy of a Ben Ellis penalty 22 minutes in.

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At least three Albanian scoring opportunities should have been taken during this first period but the final pass went astray or support wasn’t where it should have been.

Then after the break, and with Hartpury’s hooker and captain Chris Fortey in the bin, the visitors’ pack charged over by the posts, Sam Lunnon claiming the touchdown for Richard Gregg to convert.

Then Mat Protheroe took over at fly half for Hartpury and the slim Welshman single-handedly took his side’s dour efforts to another level. Stepping precisely through a bemused OA defence he released Ruardhi McConnochie and Ellis added the extras.

Gregg was on target to level with a penalty after 15 minutes and despite odd flashes of brilliance from Protheroe the tie chuntered on to what seemed an inevitable draw.

The fly half had other ideas and as the final whistle approached he skipped through wide out on the left, slipped the ball to the waiting McConnochie who took advantage of the delay caused when all but he assumed a forward pass had taken place. The try stood.

This was another episode of the stop-start nature of the Albanian season so far. The loss leaves Billy Johnson’s team just out of the relegation zone. They host Darlington at Woollams on Saturday.