Saints come out on top in must win’ game

London Two NW Finchley 0 St Albans 21 ST ALBANS duly triumphed in their must win game against bottom side Finchley on Saturday although it wasn t until late on that they cemented their authority. On a cold but bright afternoon, usually excellent conditi

London Two NW

Finchley 0 St Albans 21

ST ALBANS duly triumphed in their 'must win' game against bottom side Finchley on Saturday although it wasn't until late on that they cemented their authority.

On a cold but bright afternoon, usually excellent conditions for open running rugby, Saints arrived early at Finchley's Summers Lane ground, full of confidence. However, they were met by the sight of the groundsman with a wheelbarrow full of sand trudging round the muddy pitch emptying his load onto the various puddles dotted around the ground. Open running rugby apparently was off.

Needless to say, the first half was a frightful affair. Finchley possessed a big heavy pack on which their game-plan was obviously based. It really was a war of attrition with the referee blowing his whistle seemingly at every breakdown.

The one opportunity that did arise was from a classic break from Saints wing Ed Coy.

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With 22 to go but two covering Finchley players facing him, he cleverly kicked infield where stand-off Charlie Howard was supporting. The ball bounced perfectly for the St Albans man to touch down under the posts. However, with the sparse crowd applauding, the referee awarded a penalty to the home side, adjudging Howard to have been in front of the kicker. A harsh decision, especially when the official was 15 metres behind the play.

Playing against Finchley's monstrous pack, it was perhaps a surprise that Saints held parity in both the scrum and lineout.

In loose play, where Saints' mobile forwards would usually dominate, they were negated by both the heavy pitch and by the referee's constant refusal to penalise the home side for persistently killing the ball. If he had taken action early on then perhaps the game would have become more fluent.

It was perhaps no surprise to all watching when at the break the score was still 0-0.

The St. Albans coaches, Lister and Trude, certainly gave their side a talking to during the interval because they came out for the restart with a renewed vigour.

The tactics had to change and it seemed Saints had taken heed. They were much more ambitious, trying to involve their influential backs from the off.

Chances were now being created, particularly in wide areas where the surface was slightly firmer.

Saints looked to be 'in' a couple of times but the mud covered ball was spilled at the vital moment.

The away side were looking very dangerous as the home side's pack noticeably tired. However, with only 20 minutes left, there was still nothing on the scoreboard. When Finchley infringed again, Captain Justin Joubert correctly called up full back Mark Kentish for a shot at goal. With the deadlock broken Saints pushed on.

Five minutes later Kentish scored with another penalty. Finchley now looked a very weary side.

In the closing minutes, St. Albans' backs cut loose, serviced well by recalled scrum half Pete Hissey.

First, winger Ed Coy skipped past his opposite number as if he wasn't there to score in the right hand corner. Next, a beautiful move in the centres allowed James Dickinson on the left wing to take the ball at full pace. A fine covering tackle from the Finchley full back stopped Dickinson five metres out but a 'pop' to support runner Martin Alderton and pass to stand-off Charlie Howard saw Saints score their second try. With the final play of the game another scintillating move in the backs saw Dickinson cross the line in the left corner.

Maybe before the start and certainly with a quarter of the match remaining, Saints would have taken a 21-0 victory.

The Man of the Match award was deservedly given to centre Duncan Sharp for a truly exquisite display, particularly in the second half.

With the other results going for Saints this week, they managed to move a place higher in this increasingly competitive division.

This week Saints travel to high-flying Imperial Medicals on Saturday in a re-arranged fixture from when the snows first came.

St Albans: Kentish, Coy, Sharp, Alderton, Dickinson, Howard, Hissey, Lemiere, Callan, O'Leary, Hillier, Sayers, Huddleston, Bickle, Joubert. Reps: Kilgallon.