Saints come unstuck at LNZ

Defeat for St Albans

London 2 North West

London New Zealand 25 - St. Albans 7

On Saturday, St Albans travelled to Wasps’ training ground in Ealing, the current home of London New Zealand, but were undone by a side whose performance belied their lowly league position.

Saints rarely perform when they travel away to any of the north west London based sides and once again they put on a lucklustre show.

Saints skipper Gareth Lane won the toss and chose to play against the elements. This decision ultimately backfired when they conceded a goal, a try and two penalties in a one sided first half.

To witness the opening exchanges, one wouldn’t have believed how the game would eventually pan out, with St Albans dominating possession, making good yards and playing the game on the front foot.

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However after only a few minutes they suffered the loss of influential second-row John Sayers, his thigh twisted when getting stuck at the bottom of a ruck. With the strong wind in their faces, Saints sensibly did not use the kicking option and were keeping the ball in hand at all times. This works until possession is surrendered and each time this happened Saints were punished by the strong LNZ side.

First a simple penalty, then a try caused by some weak tackling, saw the visitors down by eight.

The outcome of the match was ultimately decided midway through the half when Saints were throwing all they had at the home sides defences.

Wave after wave of attack, phase after phase, the ball being retained. However, Saints lost patience and looked to spin the ball wide.

The prevailing conditions of a strong wind and a pitch that was cutting up badly saw the attack come to nothing when the Saints centres, losing their footing in the mud, failed to find full-back James Dickinson coming into the line at pace.

The ball was spilled and the LNZ winger gleefully fly-hacked down field. The home side were first to the loose ball, safely gathering and scoring under the posts at a canter. Saints looked down.

With just minutes remaining until halftime, LNZ were awarded another penalty which they duly converted.

With the strong wind at their backs, St. Albans knew that if they scored early in the second half, they could still get back into the match. It wasn’t to be.

To their credit, the home side defended their line very well and got their tactics spot on with player positioning, meaning they could control possession comfortably as Saints looked to impose themselves through territorial advantage.

The sizable deficit meant Saints declined kickable penalties, going for tries at all times. They did however become predictable with their attacks and this made defending for the home side far simpler.

With 20 minutes to go Saints brought off the bench prop Sean Edwards and his tenacity and strength allowed the visitors to dominate the tight far more.

London New Zealand continued to defend well, although at times falling foul of the law.

This led to a yellow card for a LNZ lock being shown for persistent infringement. With seven minutes remaining Saints again spilled possession deep into opposition territory.

The ball was snaffled by the home side who set off upfield and the LNZ attack were strong enough to beat the despairing Saints cover.

St Albans did eventually cross the line, scored by Edwards, converted by Howard, from a series of tap penalties on the LNZ line, but it proved only a consolation as the referees whistle signified the end of the match.

St Albans: Dickinson, Cutts, Lane, Sharp, Satchell, Alderton, Howard; Lemiere, Hume, Weldon, Sayers, Huddleston, Styles, Northcroft, Scanlan. Reps: Edwards, Andrews, Randall.