Subs torpedo OAs win at Westcombe

National League 2 South

Westcombe Park 26 Old Albanians 31

OLD Albanians duly turned up at Orpington, home of Westcombe Park, played 80 minutes of rugby and arrived back at Woollams five points to the good having notched a bonus for four tries despite two moments of madness threatening to undo all their hard work.

Without last week’s two props, Tom Laws who is away for three weeks and the injured Alex Brown but with the return of James Ellershaw from Saracens and the team much as last week, a convincing win was expected at lowly Combe.

And so it appeared as OAs sprinted into a 14-0 lead within 16 minutes with tries from Ellershaw after a drive off the back of a scrum near Combe’s line by No.8, Andy Daish and the first from Chris May from Chris Lombaard’s break though the centre and 35 meter incursion into Combe’s 22. Both were converted into the teeth of the wind by fly-half, Ben Patston, who later damaged his shoulder just before half time and was replaced by Zac Vinnicombe.

In those first 30 minutes, Patston had been responsible for running Combe ragged, firing off passes to set up Terry Adams, Mark Evans and the returning Simon Lincoln to exploit with gusto. Combe, however, were cheered by the departure of their tormentor-in-chief and came miraculously back into life with a sharp-angled run from winger, Michael Adeniya to dot down in the left hand corner, which fly-half, Luke Giles, duly improved.

All of a sudden their meaty pack, which had seemed until then to be playing by numbers, galvanised into a real threat and OAs struggled to maintain momentum until half time with mistake after turnover after missed tackle creeping into their game. With a half time score of 14-7, though, this was surely just a blip and the second half with the wind in their favour would unleash a hatful of points? Well, yes and no.

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It only took six minutes before second row stalwart, Marc Comb, was substituted by Lloyd Bickle and, after a sparkling appearance – Mark Evans made way for Stefan Liebenberg at scrum-half.

OAs appeared to be humming again and after a searching upfield kick from a midfield penalty, Vinnicombe found the corner and a lineout ensued on Combe’s five metre line. Twice the ball went through hands across the field until Ellershaw handed off enough defenders to allow the hard working Wes Cope in to score in the corner. Richard Gregg converted from wide out and all seemed set for a romp.

However, the first moment of madness ensued after Ellershaw retired with a leg strain and was substituted by an individual who by virtue of his young age will remain unnamed. The clock had not started on his appearance, when he wilfully obstructed and received a yellow card and Ellershaw was obliged to return to the action for 10 more minutes, leg strain and all.

Combe pushed OAs’ scrum all over the place resulting in a penalty try. Gregg tried to restore sanity by punishing a Combe indiscretion with a long range penalty, bringing the score to 24-14. Only three minutes elapsed before OAs’ 14 men once again succumbed to a by now rapacious Combe scrum who pushed the pack over the line for a score but missed with the conversion. The net result of that madness was that the score went in 18 short minutes from a comfortable 21-7 to a distinctly uneasy 24-19 in OAs’ favour.

However OAs’, back to a full compliment, swept back into a more convincing lead with May’s second try, again converted by Gregg. Then it was madness part two as just before 40 minutes were up, Cope was substituted by Brad James, who did exactly the same as had been done before, seeing yellow almost as soon as his foot hit the pitch area, obliging an exhausted Cope to step up to the plate again. And again Combe called for scrums instead of penalty kicks and forced a second penalty try just on the final whistle.

The bad weather has caused much rearrangement of fixtures and there is only one recovery weekend between now and the end of the season. The away fixture against Shelford has now been rescheduled for Tuesday, April 26.

OAs: Gregg, May, Adams, Lombaard, Lincoln, Patston, Evans, Cecere, Cope, Ellershaw, Comb, Gillings, White, Bache, Daish. Reps: James, Hughes, Bickle, Liebenberg, Vinnicombe.