Old Albanian survive three yellows to take Cambridge tryfest
PUBLISHED: 13:27 20 September 2016
Old Albanian Rugby Club survived three second-half yellow cards to edge Cambridge in a 70-point thriller.
The 36-34 win was OAs second five-point haul away from Woollams and saw the sides trade 53 points alone in the first half.
When Harry Bate opened the scoring with a typical bullocking charge just five minutes of this enthralling match, it seemed at the time that just about everything was going the way of the visitors.
Indeed throughout the first period Albanian exerted such forward pressure on Cambridge, particularly in the scrum, that onlookers believed an unassailable lead would be built up in very short order.
The hosts did not help their own cause with a series of handling blunders and a certain lackadaisical approach at the breakdown which allowed OAs to dominate possession and territory.
The visitors cruised to a bonus point with four tries inside the first 40 minutes. However Cambridge had given notice of intent during this time and neatly interspersed the Albanian scores with three of their own.
By the break George Elliott and Billy Johnson had joined Bate on the scoresheet and the flanker had added one more to his total.
Chris May had obliged with 11 points with the boot.
In the meantime James Ayrton, Ricky Reeves and Cameron Ruddock had kept Cambridge’s hopes alive and Jack Green’s two conversions and a penalty left it 31-22 at half-time.
Unaccountably the next 20 minutes were scoreless and in that time James Shanahan and Billy Johnson were both yellow carded which threw the visitors game plan into turmoil.
Yet the Albanian defence stood firm and conceded nothing in this difficult situation and with an hour gone Hayden King drove from a line-out to give his side a 14 point lead.
That should have been that.
But students of this fixture will know that strange things happen in the final quarter and so it proved again. Jimmy Speirs was given the third Albanian yellow card and as time wound down Matt Hema made a five point dent in the OA lead.
Ayrton’s second and Green’s improvement reduced that gap to just two but despite claiming the resulting kick-off, another handling error ended Cambridge’s hopes and the match.
Rosslyn Park visit Woollams on Saturday for a 3pm kick-off.