Opening pre-season victory for Old Albanian

OLD Albanian claimed a 36-19 victory in their pre-season warm-up game over visitors Darlington Moden Park, writes Brian Quinn.

Last Saturday’s 32 degree temperature seemed not to worry the lively away side who started well.

Their speedy right wing Max Connon found acres of space behind the host’s defence following a speculative kick ahead by his brother, Grant who also converted splendidly from wide out on the right.

DMP were in front for just three minutes, however, when four smart phases of play gave Billy Johnson the scoring opportunity.

Much of the remainder of this period saw thunderous exchanges between the forward packs with the result that Albanian possession slowed appreciably.

However individual determination and great strength enabled Terry Adams and Ollie Cooper-Millar to breach the defence before the break.

Sean McCartney replied on the left for the visitors after sterling work by fly half Connon and the teams turned around with the score at 17-12.

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Twelve minutes into the second half, and immediately after the first water break, excellent work by Gregg on the right allowed May to put the ball virtually under the posts.

The conversion was a formality.

Scrum and line-out had been a particularly strong area of Albanian’s game in the first hour and quick ball from an accurate throw-in on OA’s left, as the match entered the final quarter, gave Lombaard the little space he needed to surge over near the right hand flag. The extra two points went narrowly begging.

Careless defence less than five minutes later let Josh Hall over for a converted try and the match entered a somewhat fractured, frenetic period.

Ollie Marchon had the final word and his converted effort put the final points on the board.

Coach James Shanahan was thoughtful afterwards.

“You can’t expect perfection in what was effectively the first shakedown game,” he said. “But it would be nice.

“Our visitors are a robust outfit with plenty of skill at the back. I don’t think they should have posed as many questions as they did, but that is now for us to deal with. We can thank them for their efforts and I’m sure they will be more than happy with their outing.”

Six regulars, including the coach were missing from Saturday’s line-up so OAs have plenty of options to play with.

All in all it was an encouraging start to the new campaign.

Exactly the same can be said for the 2nd XV who took on their nemesis from last year, Ealing.

It seemed in the early stages that another heavy defeat was in the offing as the visitors made deep inroads into OA territory, scoring two unanswered tries.

Warmed by the pitiless sun, the hosts gradually matched Ealing’s early fire with an abrasive comeback and the game see-sawed in energy-sapping fashion.

The final score went narrowly to the visitors, 22-17, and it will have been an encouraging start to the season by Dan Harmer’s men who will know they had opportunities to snatch a victory.

On Saturday senior teams visit Southend where for sure the challenge will be ramped up even more, all in preparation for the trip to Tynedale on September 1.