Bate inspires Old Albanian to Blaydon romp
PUBLISHED: 18:51 03 September 2016 | UPDATED: 18:51 03 September 2016
Two tries from Harry Bate helped Old Albanian Rugby Club to a fantastic start to life back in National One with a 35-3 bonus-point win at Blaydon.
The open-side flanker, who played for the Crow Trees club when he was a student in Newcastle, scored either side of half-time with Ali Crossdale and Billy Johnson adding further tries.
Chris May added 15 points with the boot.
Not many teams will come away from Blaydon with a four-point win, never mind five, but it was one for which Bate, although naturally delighted with, had mixed reactions.
He said: “Every time I went over the try-line my heart sort of sank a little bit but it was a great victory for us.
“I had a great two years here but now I’m back in St Albans and I love it here too.
“Our pre-season has been hit and miss; we haven’t really come together but today just seemed to work.
“Our defence showed the great character in all of us and I’m really chuffed for the boys.”
OAs had sprung a surprise naming Kelly Brown, the former Scotland captain, at No.8.
The Saracens man is on loan at Woollams to help boost his fitness.
And he and his fellow forwards put the visitors on the front foot from the off.
They did cross the line after four minutes but were held up, and despite the resulting five-metre scrum giving Blaydon a penalty, it was a home infringement that brought the opening score minutes later.
Penalised for not releasing the tackler, May slotted the kick for 3-0.
The rest of the half saw a much more even contest, with the hosts enjoying much more possession.
And while the forwards were having plenty of joy up front, and especially in scrums, it was a lack of cohesion in the backs which was the biggest problem for the hosts.
Their best spell of possession came in the closing minutes when penalty after penalty was given against Albanian.
Blaydon turned down chances to level the scores with kicks to the corner but it seemed to be a tactic that would bring the opening try.
However, poor handling and options in the line, handed OAs the ball back and they took full advantage.
May made the initial break and eventually the ball found its way to Bate, who bounced a number of tackles to score by the posts.
The second period actually saw both teams up their play in the open.
Blaydon’s backs finally put together a piece of good set-piece rugby which gained them 30 yards.
But again it was handling that let them down and ironically, it led to Bate’s second score as OAs cleared into the Blaydon half and the Albanian seven found a gap.
The third score from Crossdale was arguably the best of the bunch, the ball been passed through the hands out to the replacement winger who showed enough skills to step the last defender and speed over the line.
The bonus point came in the last minute when skipper Johnson found himself free on the wing and he dropped over in the corner.
Brett Connon added Blaydon’s only points.