Saints go marching up! OAs clinch promotion after hard-fought battle with Guildford

PUBLISHED: 09:25 09 April 2019 | UPDATED: 09:28 09 April 2019

Old Albanian Saints defeated Guildford Gazelles 17-10 to win promotion to Women's Championship South. Picture: EMMA COOKE

Old Albanian Saints defeated Guildford Gazelles 17-10 to win promotion to Women's Championship South. Picture: EMMA COOKE

Archant

Old Albanian Saints will be playing in the second tier of women’s rugby after a nail-biting 17-10 win over Guildford Gazelles.

Old Albanian Saints defeated Guildford Gazelles 17-10 to win promotion to Women's Championship South. Picture: EMMA COOKEOld Albanian Saints defeated Guildford Gazelles 17-10 to win promotion to Women's Championship South. Picture: EMMA COOKE

The two teams were the respective winners of their Womens Championship Division Two South leagues but only one of them could be promoted.

And after racing into a 17-0 lead at Maidenhead, the Saints had to survive wave after wave of Guildford attacks, as well as two yellow cards, before the final whistle brought relief and sheer delight.

Old Albanian Saints defeated Guildford Gazelles 17-10 to win promotion to Women's Championship South. Picture: EMMA COOKEOld Albanian Saints defeated Guildford Gazelles 17-10 to win promotion to Women's Championship South. Picture: EMMA COOKE

Head coach Darran Brown said: “A great team ethic and effort carried us through. We were simply irresistible at times in the first half but our defence was put under huge pressure by a very good Guildford side in the second.

“The penalties and cards cost us and upset our rhythm but Sarah [McKenna] and I are hugely proud of this squad.

Old Albanian Saints defeated Guildford Gazelles 17-10 to win promotion to Women's Championship South. Picture: EMMA COOKEOld Albanian Saints defeated Guildford Gazelles 17-10 to win promotion to Women's Championship South. Picture: EMMA COOKE

“They throughly deserved the result and plaudits.”

Saints had to defend for times in the first period too but they drew first blood after slick hands put Siobhan Drummond over the line.

Old Albanian Saints defeated Guildford Gazelles 17-10 to win promotion to Women's Championship South. Picture: EMMA COOKEOld Albanian Saints defeated Guildford Gazelles 17-10 to win promotion to Women's Championship South. Picture: EMMA COOKE

The conversion was missed and with Guildford still pressing the penalty count started to rise.

But OAs were still able to cause panic of their own and when the backs were given the space, they attacked with pace.

Old Albanian Saints defeated Guildford Gazelles 17-10 to win promotion to Women's Championship South. Picture: EMMA COOKEOld Albanian Saints defeated Guildford Gazelles 17-10 to win promotion to Women's Championship South. Picture: EMMA COOKE

That allowed Bethany Saunders to go over for a 10-0 lead and as half-time drew closer, they was a third try.

This time it was the forwards who got it en masse and Saunders slotted the conversion for a solid lead.

The second half was a full-on backs to the wall effort though with the Saints’ defence tested to their limits.

They did let one try slip through their anks midway through the half and with Guildford’s pressure non-stop, Albanian started to tire.

That brought penalties and eventually a yellow card.

Yet even with 14 Saints were able to thwart the Guildford attacks although all bets were off when they were reduced to 13 with the brandishing of another card.

That allowed the Gazelles in for a second try although crucially again the conversion was missed.

And from the restart Saints were able to pitch their defensive line on the Guildford 10-metre line.

And a big hit dislodged the ball and with it came promotion to Championship One South.

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