Saints too Smart for UCS Old Boys

St Albans keep up the pressure on league leaders Stevenage

London Two NW

St Albans 35 UCS Old Boys 19

ON a bright and breezy autumn Saturday, St. Albans maintained their impressive start to the season with a comfortable victory over UCS Old Boys at Boggymead.

The opening exchanges saw both sides trying to assert some authority in the tight, but neither really dominated. Saints were missing second row John Sayers through injury for a second week and had lost influential prop Sean Edwards who cried off that morning. Also missing was dynamic full-back Mark Kentish, victim of a back injury and this left Saints looking for a place kicker to fill his boots. At the first penalty awarded to Saints up stepped scrum-half Dan Smart who calmly slotted over from 40 metres.

The visitors now upped their game. Saints were under pressure in their 22 for sometime and despite some decent last ditch defending, it was only a matter of time before UCS crossed the line for a well deserved converted try.

Saints, despite their superior league position, now knew they were in a battle. They cleverly changed tactic, bringing their dangerous backs much more into play. The forwards played their part securing both good field position and possession but every time the three-quarters were released, they looked likely to score.

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First up was a wonderful switch in the centres giving skipper Gareth Lane acres of space. He made 30 metres before sending a beautifully timed pass to flyer Ed Coy who beat the cover with aplomb. Smart stroked the conversion to re-take the lead.

Another break around the 10/12 channel and Saints were in space again. Coy was again the eventual recipient but this time was faced with his opposite number and the covering full-back. A cleverly weighted chip in field showing perfect awareness allowed Smart to gather and touch down under the posts unmolested.

UCS had little answer to the Saints attack which was now running riot. Again the centres cut through the opposition line. This time Lane raced towards the posts but delayed his pass superbly to send in his partner in crime, Ross Turnbull, to touchdown under the sticks. With three tries already on the board it was somewhat of a surprise to the buoyant home support to see Smart opt for goal from long range. However, when the kick sailed between the uprights, thus giving Saints a 25-7 lead, the decision seemed justified.

With half-time approaching Saints attacked again. The visitors appeared to have no answer to the raw pace and strength from the home side’s broken play. This time it was Turnbull who cut through and his pass to Lane looked like he had returned the compliment. Some good cover defence meant he was tackled just short of the line. The ball was recycled quickly and it was Smart who took his opportunity to sneak over, giving Saints a 30-7 halftime lead, already having secured the four-try bonus point.

The second half was more low key than the first. It was as if Saints felt they had already done enough. They still enjoyed some decent possession, but the cutting edge was missing. The crisp interplay of the first was sadly missing.

In spite of setting up a number of opportunities, the final pass would go astray or a wrong decision would be made. St Albans however looked comfortable until, with a quarter of the game remaining the visitors touched down in the corner. Then with 10 minutes still on the clock, Saints, having spurned another glowing chance to increase their lead, allowed the visitors to score again. They missed a couple of first up tackles, allowing UCS to get behind the defence. Some good hands from their backs saw them go over under the posts. At 30-19 Saints could have panicked. A calming word from Lane and an instruction to up their game to the heights of the first, saw Saints relax and once again take control.

The final try was a solo effort from scrum-half Smart to score his hat-trick and take his personal tally to 25 points crowning a fine performance. There was also an impressive debut from wing/centre Andrew Flanagan, who only joined the club this week and forwards Justin and Julian Erwee continue to fit in well. This coming week sees Saints taking a break from league action and making the arduous journey to take on Lowestoft and Yarmouth RFC in the next round of the intermediate cup.

St ALbans XV: Andrews, Coy, Lane, Turnbull, Flanagan, Alderton, Smart; M Huddleston M, Hume, Weldon, Styles, Justin Erwee, Stevenson, Ransome, C Huddleston.

Reps: Lemiere, Julian Erwee, Rogerson.