Old Albanian take solace in defeat after superb defensive show away to Henley Hawks

Joe Butler was a try scorer for Old Albanian away to Henley Hawks. Picture: DANNY LOO

Joe Butler was a try scorer for Old Albanian away to Henley Hawks. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: DANNY LOO

Old Albanian can take solace that they were never overshadowed by their high-flying hosts despite falling to a 25-18 loss at Henley Hawks.

The home side had gone into the game lying third in National Two South but Jamie Townsend's young side battled for the entire 80 minutes.

And the confidence that should have given them will stand them in good stead for the visit of second-placed Tonbridge Juddians on Saturday.

Once more Albanians were faced with a bigger set of forwards, this one containing the familiar faces of Sam Lunnon and Charlie Hughes.

Yet even after the early loss of two front row to injury, the valliant remainder took the fight to the Hawks at every opportunity.

Handling by both sides was remarkably good in the rain-soaked conditions but the abiding memory will be the tenacity with which OA defenders tore down Henley attacks all afternoon.

As has been shown on the international stage every victory depends on staunch defence for the confidence it imbues and the realisation that those who recover quickest from any playing error will give themselves a greater chance of taking home the spoils.

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The Hawks may well have asked the question in training this week why an advantage in possession didn't lead to an increase in the winning margin. The Albanian defence provided the clear answer.

Henley took an early lead when Jake Albon crossed in the third minute but Joe Butler converted his own try nine minutes later after Rory Hardman cleverly drew the defence wide.

His attempted drop goal flew narrowly wide moments later but he made no mistake with a penalty after 16 minutes.

A second penalty balanced against a Hughes try out wide, and an astonishing conversion from Ben Bolster, left Albanian 13-12 ahead at the break.

But six minutes into the second half Bolster's penalty gave his side a lead they were not to lose and his conversion of scrum half Ewan Fenley's close range effort opened the gap to nine points.

Sustained OA pressure and great work from Nic Defeo gave wing Mike Hogan his opportunity but the miserable conditions made Butler's improving kick impossible.

Bolster's second penalty ended the scoring with six minutes left on the clock.