Saints ignore history to win at West Hampstead
St Albans travelled to UCS Old Boys’ West Hampstead grounds on Saturday for a fixture that historically had proved an unhappy hunting ground.
However, on this occasion, a strong all round performance saw Saints return with the spoils for the first time, winning 39-13.
Saints had arrived with an injury depleted side, but were playing a team yet to win this season.
From early doors it was clear that Saints had come to conquer. For perhaps the first time this season, they flew out of the blocks, tearing into the contact area with intensity.
But after 10 minutes and despite constant pressure, they still had nothing to show for their domination. The hosts’ line was eventually breached when the Saints’ forwards, led by prop Dave Hayes and lock Mark Davies, sucked in the covering defence with a series of pick and go moves, allowing the backs to release fullback Harry Trude. He converted his own score.
Even when UCS had possession, Saints’ rush defence put the hosts under pressure, Pat Falvey and Tony Stevenson particularly noticeable at the breakdown.
UCS’s attack was limited to a couple of long range penalty attempts, the second of which was taken.
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Without a recognised number 8 in their ranks, Saints were employing an interchangeable back row system, which was working well in the scrum.
Brenton Lemiere, normally front row, but standing in at number 8, was next to break through, again the interplay between the pack and the backs impressive.
UCS were competing well in the tight, from set plays, particularly in the lineout, but Saints’ defence continued to look strong, restricting the hosts territorially and making tackles on or behind the gain line. As the interval approached and with UCS on the attack, Saints stripped possession from their hosts and set off up the field. The ball was passed sublimely between every back, ending with left wing Ross Taylor touching down in the corner for Saints’ third. On the stroke of halftime, they were awarded a straight forward penalty which Trude stroked over to give the visitors’ a healthy lead of 20-3.
Saints started the second period much as they had finished the first, on the front foot in both attack and defence.
The next score was via a move practised many times on the training ground. A St Albans scrum in the centre of the pitch saw all backs aligned out left with just wing Ed Coy to the right. The set ball was quickly fed from Lemiere to scrum half Jon Price and his blistering pace outstripped the cover defence to dot down. The fourth try secured the bonus point and Trude’s conversion gave Saints a 24-point cushion.
St Albans continued to dominate and it was no surprise when Price bagged his second, this time from broken play and again some distance out. He spotted a gap, his quick turn of foot exploiting the tired looking home defence, then a zig-zagging run all the way to the UCS try line.
UCS got a second wind and the match at this stage looked far more even. A series of penalty infringements by Saints ended with centre Dan Townson being sent to the bin and, with the numerical advantage, the home side scored their first try.
No sooner had Townson returned before it was prop Mitchell Turner’s turn to fall foul of the referee and he was given a 10 minute rest. Again a man down, Saints conceded another soft try.
The official was now blowing his whistle with reckless abandon, causing both sides to become agitated with his decision making. The game thus became a scrappy affair.
When Turner returned to the fray, and numbers back to parity, Saints regrouped to finish strongly. Clever play in midfield from stand in captain Joe Grove gave Saints good field position. John Sayers then linked with Fraser Morris to set up the driving maul. However the increasingly greasy ball was then spilled.
UCS looked to counter but the attempted kick ahead was charged down by stand off Martin Alderton. The ball arrived at the feet of replacement wing Dan Satchell who scooped the ball up and sped off to score in the corner. The touchline conversion from Trude put the icing on the cake of what was a very satisfying performance.