Saints dust off the cobwebs with hard fought victory over West London

Win leaves Saints in third

London North West 2

St Albans 18 West London 14

St Albans began the new year with a solid performance that saw them beat West London at Boggymead Spring.

Some forced positional changes saw regular stand-off Charlie Howard at scrum-half and centre Martin Alderton moving to stand-off. Saints started brightly enough, looking the more incisive of the two teams and creating a couple of half-chances.

However, 15 minutes in and Saints had nothing to show for their efforts. In fact it was now the away side who retained the ball well, securing the lion’s share of possession. The visitors seemed intent on keeping the ball in the forwards despite getting no change from the home side’s soild defence. When they did spin it out, the West London back-line looked fragile in attack and this made for easy pickings for the Saints.

From one such turnover, a sweeping Saints attack saw the ball whisked through the hands from right to left. From the ensuing ruck the home side got the all important quick ball and sent the attack back the other way. With the opposition in disarray, Saints’ captain on the day, centre Gareth Lane, glided through to open the scoring with a superb try. Full-back Kentish uncharacteristically missed the conversion but soon made amends with a penalty from a far more difficult position.

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Due mainly to some excellent tackling from the visitors, Saints, inspite of having all the chances, had to wait until just before half-time to add to their account.

Again quality ball was retained by the pack, debutant Pete Northcroft particularly standing out. Straightforward quick hands delivered to James Dickinson who scored under the posts. The conversion added, Saints took a 15-0 lead into the break.

St Albans in some ways seemed to have taken their foot off the gas and this played into the opposition’s hands. Some sloppy tackling in the backs allowed the West London centre to pierce a hole in Saints’ defensive line and touch down.

With forward dominance again, Saints were pressing the West London line. This forced the visitors to concede a series of penalties. Saints kept looking to score from open play, perhaps hoping for a penalty try. When this didn’t materialise, Kentish stepped up to cooly take the three points on offer.

Once again, St Albans looked comfortable. However West London came again and with just minutes remaining they were in position, camped on the St Albans line. Despite many crunching tackles, the visitors finally squeezed over and at 18-14 the last five minutes proved nail biting.

St Albans duly held on for a deserved victory, but the margin was much tighter than they would have wanted. Still, without having played a competitive fixture in over a month, it was maybe that Saints were just a little ring rusty. Saints’ Man of the Match was centre Duncan Sharp.

A special mention for Saints’ outgoing captain Dave Callan, whose career is taking him to Wellington, New Zealand for a new challenge. His skill, enthusiasm and tenacity will be sorely missed and we wish him all the best.

St Albans: Kentish, Coy, Lane, Sharp, Dickinson, Alderton, Howard. Edwards, Lemiere, Weldon, Sayers, Huddleston, Styles, Northcroft, Scanlan. Reps Hume, Stanford, Still.