Sutton too strong

London One Sutton and Epsom 38 Old Albanians 6 OAs run of league wins came to an abrupt end in the Surrey commuter belt on Saturday, in conditions which lent themselves more to mountain rescue than fast handling rugby. After recent excellent performanc

London One

Sutton and Epsom 38

Old Albanians 6

OAs' run of league wins came to an abrupt end in the Surrey commuter belt on Saturday, in conditions which lent themselves more to mountain rescue than fast handling rugby.

After recent excellent performances at Shelford and Richmond (in the Cup), confidence was high in an improving Sutton side who seized the opportunity to summarily despatch a weakened OA's outfit and register their first win of the season.

The Woollams men failed to capitalise on the benefit of a strengthening wind in the first period which whipped icy rain into defenders' faces. Their inability to force a try looked gradually more ominous as the first half progressed and when Sutton broke the stalemate themselves, on the stroke of half time, the visitors knew that they were in for a thorough examination of tactics and discipline for the rest of the match.

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OAs led by two Richard Gregg penalties to one from his opposite number Joe Goatley after 25 minutes. It was Man of the match Goatley, however, who crossed for Sutton's opening try, gifted by a poor piece of defending from a line out and then tormented OAs' defence with a series of penetrating kicks for position, aided by a wind blowing without mercy towards OAs' posts.

Unlike their hosts, OAs struggled all afternoon to win their own line out which too often gifted away crucial possession, piling even more pressure onto a desperate rearguard action in which Zimbabwean Lock, Arthur Mate, gave all he had.

After a bright start from Oliver Peck and full back Tom Chesters, OAs' backs were generally disappointing and, allowing for another week of (enforced) positional switches in their line up, never managed to operate as an effective unit. The appalling conditions made for treacherous handling but once into their stride, it was Sutton who adapted the better and made fewer errors. In Mark Mansfield's absence, Andy Edwards made his debut on the wing but had few opportunities to show his turn of speed.

An injury to Chesters early into the second half disrupted any remaining cohesion in the OAs ranks and heralded the first of four tries as the home side pushed home their superiority, scored by centre Bryan Milne and converted by Goatley. The Milne-Goatley partnership struck again after a great running line had undone the visitors' defence, missing Tryfan Edwards who had received a yellow card shortly beforehand.

Goatley was again on hand to cross and convert on 75 minutes, taking his personal points tally to 21 and, as OAs' minds wandered from their miserable lot to a reviving hot shower, Munford, the home scrum half, added further embarrassment to the scoreline with another easy try under the posts.

In between, in a rare visit to their opponent's 22, Ed Panting looked set to grab a consolation score after a break by Edwards but OAs' winger was apprehended in his final stride.

Alex Bennett willingly carried the ball over the gain line throughout the action but without the support of his back row partner, Paul Gustard, OAs were sadly lacking their usual authority at the break down and reduced to a shadow of the side that had forced a victory against Jersey only seven days earlier.

A cold and wet contingent of loyal OAs fans headed for a miserable homeward journey with little to cheer them and well aware of the damage inflicted on their side's points scored differential which could prove to be a vital issue in a league where no fewer than seven teams are now separated by only two points.

Expectations of a prompt return to form will be high ahead of a big day for rugby at Woollams this Saturday, November 8. OAs entertain North Walsham in London One, the game being sponsored by Clydesdale Bank plc, kick off 3pm. At 5.30pm VPs and spectators will focus their attention on the much awaited Richard Thomas Leukaemia Challenge match between OA Beech Bums, a side containing a string of OA playing legends and Bedford Athletic Queens.

Other home fixtures include OAs Thirds entertaining Poblenou Enginyers, on tour from their base in Barcelona and the Fourths playing Hitchin.

OAs: Tom Chesters, Ed Panting, Dene Miller, Tryfan Edwards, Andy Edwards, Richard Gregg, Oliver Peck, Adam Gelman, Gregg Botterman, Nathan Byrne , Arthur Mate, James Kriukelis, Simon Lye, David Fergusson, Alex Bennett. Subs (all used) : Andy Pearson, James Coles, Mark Evans.

l OAs regret having been obliged to cancel last Saturday's fireworks display at Woollams due to extreme weather conditions. The display has now been rearranged for Sunday, November 16, at 6.30pm, gates close at 6.15pm.

All pre-purchased tickets will be accepted on the gate and are still available from the clubhouse bar at Woollams. The cost of entry on the night will be £15 per family and £6 per individual adult.