Saints survive Grasshoppers comeback
Away win for St Albans
London Two NW
Grasshoppers 15 St Albans 19
A SLIGHTLY unfamiliar St Albans side headed down to West London looking to bounce back from their derby defeat to Harpenden last week.
A number of injuries and absences saw several veterans called into battle once more. With a gale force wind at their backs and a slope in their favour the blue and gold men knew they would have to get off to a flying start, and that they did.
A powerful catch and drive from kick off earned them a penalty and then a similar catch and drive from the resulting line out gave Mark Kentish his first opportunity to trouble the scoreboard as he stroked over a penalty.
The Saints’ backs were keen to get in on the action and again from kick off an expertly worked move put full-back Kentish into space but his final pass narrowly failed to find supporting scrum-half Andrew Still.
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Aggressive defence kept the home side in their own 22 as they battled the elements and a blue and gold wall to try and make any ground. Big hits from Tom Styles and Doug Morete lead to a turnover and the ball was slickly moved along the back line with fly-half Charlie Howard looping round and taking a return pass to crash over in the corner. The conversion was missed but moments later Kentish notched another penalty to give the Saints an 11-0 lead after only 15 minutes.
What followed was a frustrating period for St Albans as time and again the backs cut their opposition apart only to find the final pass go to ground. The forwards were now struggling with lineouts in the gusting weather and the game was degenerating from its bright start. However a moment of real quality from the team saw them again score as a series of rapid forward drives from Sean Edwards, Dave Scanlon and Jack Ransome was followed by a training ground move that saw Kentish slice through the opposition for a wonderful team score.
After finding themselves 16 -0 down just before half time, the home side finally woke from their slumber. Using their large forwards and backs to punch holes they inched their way up field and the Saints began to concede penalties.
The Grasshoppers’ effective driving maul came into play and this lead to the sin-binning of flanker Ransome as he pulled down a try-line bound maul. This only delayed the score for a few moments as from the ensuing scrum under the posts the hosts’ No.8 broke blind to send the full-back crashing over.
This roused the blue and golds and straight from kick off they regained possession and won a penalty as second row Craig Huddlestone drove into the heart of the defence. Kentish calmly converted for a half time lead of 19-5.
With the wind against them after the break it was looking like the lead may not be enough and the Saints could regret all those missed chances earlier in the half.
The second half was an intriguing contest as Grasshoppers dominated territory and possession but the Saints constantly looked dangerous on the counter. The home side worked hard to gain yards only to turn the ball over and the Saints backs would break away making large yards but again failing to finish. Promising breaks from Howard and skipper Gareth Lane failed to come to anything and the game seemed to be petering out to a scoreless second half and a good win for the Saints.
Saints lost both their props to injury with 10 minutes to go and now with the momentum in the tight Grasshoppers had other ideas. With five minutes remaining Grasshoppers launched a ferocious attack which saw them crash over in the corner. The kick was missed but the gap was down to nine and almost straight from kick off they made another break and, despite desperate defence, went over again.
Now with two minutes to go the gap was down to four and the Saints looked out on their feet having tackled themselves to a standstill.
The final kick off went straight into touch and so Grasshoppers would have one last chance to snatch an unlikely victory. Again they drove forward but one final huge hit from the Saints saw the ball spill forward and with great relief the final whistle blew.
Man of the Match was awarded to hooker Mick O’Shea for a tenacious performance.
St Albans: Kentish, Satchell, Lane, Morete, Dickinson, Howard, Still, Edwards, O’Shea, Minikis, Huddlestone, Styles, Stamford, Ransome, Scanlon.
Reps: Everall, Huddlestone, Trude.