Old Albanians frustrated in Wharfedale draw

Old Albanians had to settle for a share of the spoils against Wharfedale in their SSE National League 1 clash on Saturday.

THERE was a 12-minute spell during the first quarter of this game when Albanians proved they could win possession from what was potentially a stronger pack.

They also proved that when in possession they are one of the strongest, most inspired attack forces in Level Three rugby with a back division which can strike from anywhere on the field.

Had these mesmerising few minutes stretched even a little longer, Wharfedale would have taken the long road North with nothing to cheer them.

As it turned out the hosts were lucky to escape with a draw when the visiting forwards were allowed to dominate the game in increasing measure as the afternoon wore on.

While it is true that Jon Phillips and Andrew Daish are still missing from the line-up, and there was another change in the starting front row, for the short period referred to above James Shanahan’s side were a class above their opponents.

So it was a mystery to the watching supporters why much more advantage was not taken of this fact.

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Statistics show that Wharfedale put first points on the board when Tom Davidson notched a short range penalty awarded after A’s had made the mistake of trying to take possession of the kick-off whilst going backwards.

They were in front for just the next seven minutes of the entire game.

Albanian’s purple period started in the eighth minute when centres Johannes Lombaard and Terry Adams combined perfectly for the latter to cross under the posts, a move executed so perfectly it seemed almost ridiculously easy. Richard Gregg added the conversion.

Four minutes later Ollie Cooper-Millar shredded the defence with a handoff which went on for the time it took him to rush 20 metres.

James Shanahan then delayed his pass expertly to Ollie Marchon who slipped the ball to Gregg who sped to the woodwork. He also obliged with the extras.

Things got even better. The game was moving into the third quarter when another lightning-quick move blew what there was of the Green’s defence away and, when challenged, Shanahan delivered a magnificent, back of the hand release to the prowling Lombaard who nonchalantly dotted down next to the left upright, giving an easy conversion chance to Gregg.

It took 10 minutes for Wharfedale to get back to some sort of order but by the half-hour mark their forwards had achieved some ascendancy as evidenced by the way Ian Larkin was driven over the OA line with power to spare.

Davidson missed the conversion, one of the misses which would ultimately prove crucial.

For now A’s still had the advantage in the back row and in midfield but they had conceded five penalties, mostly in the front row. Indeed Val Ruskin was to pay for this when given a 10-minute rest two minutes from the end of the half.

Shortly before this the talismanic Shanahan left the field to be replaced by Sam Collins and Simon Horsfall took advantage of confusion on the Albanian right to cross for another unconverted try.

Nine minutes into the second half Gregg extended the lead with a 30-metre penalty but this was undone five minutes later when the Wharfedale forward wagon once more drove over OA’s whitewash, Aaron Myers the driver this time and his effort was improved by Davidson.

Gregg added a successful penalty two minutes later.

Myers has a habit of scoring twice and he gave home supporters more than a little cause for concern when, on 64 minutes he was again the beneficiary of an armchair ride to touchdown. Davidson’s kick tied the scores.

The final quarter was a messy business. Constructive, incisive rugby had been replaced by desperation and this almost turned to consternation when Davidson lined up what should have been the game-winning penalty two minutes from the end; his effort sailed narrowly wide.

He should have had another chance just before the whistle when an Albanian forward infringed on the floor but no offence was signalled.