Unlucky Saints edged out by high-flying Chiswick in thrilling finale
London Two North West St Albans 12 Chiswick 14 THIS was another narrow defeat for St Albans on Saturday and means they remain in the lower half of this division, but the fact that Chiswick fill second place shows just how tight the division is this season
London Two North West
St Albans 12 Chiswick 14
THIS was another narrow defeat for St Albans on Saturday and means they remain in the lower half of this division, but the fact that Chiswick fill second place shows just how tight the division is this season.
After all the snow and bad weather in recent times, it was a pleasure to see the game played on a firm surface which was perfect for a game of open running rugby.
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The home side started brightly enough, gaining the majority of possession from set play, without really looking dangerous in opposition territory. Saints, however, were guilty of knocking on or losing the ball in contact at vital moments, which ultimately played into the away side's hands.
From one such turn-over the Chiswick forwards created a decent platform to set their speedy backs free.
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A converted try meant Saints found themselves 7-0 down.
However, Saints quickly regrouped and for the next 10 minutes dominated play.
They were keeping the ball tight, comfortably controlling the scrum and lineout. Chiswick were conceding penalties, but Saints continued to kick for touch and recycle ball eschewing the offer of three points for the penalty. This did unfortunately prove their downfall.
Having grown impatient in the forwards, the ball was spun out to the backs who looked certain to score under the posts, but for a decisive try saving tackle.
With the ball spilled, it was the Chiswick defence who reacted quickest to fly-hack the ball up field.
They were then first to the loose ball and from good interplay found themselves touching down under the home side's posts.
From what had looked like an equalising score, Saints were now 14-0 down.
It is to St Albans' credit, that they still remained committed to the cause.
They were rewarded just before the break when they were awarded a penalty try.
This time it was Chiswick on the attack, but a couple of crunching hits in midfield from open-side Lloyd Bickle and hooker Dave Callan allowed Saints to gain possession.
The ball was scooped up by blind-side Craig Huddleston, who seeing the cover out of position, cleverly chipped for the corner and sprinted ahead.
The bobbling ball bounced kindly for Saints but the fast covering Chiswick full-back was adjudged to have impeded Huddleston on his way to touching down. At 14-7 Saints were back in it.
The second half progressed much as the first, with Saints continuing to boss the game in the tight, but Chiswick's loose forwards and backs were equal to any attack from the home side.
It wasn't until the last 10 minutes that Saints really took control. Replacement flanker Dave Stanford had been introduced and his constant harrying and hustling around the fringes gave the home side renewed momentum.
The Chiswick pack were now seemingly tiring from the afternoon's travails.
A series of strong moves by props Brenton Lemiere and Dave O'Leary took their toll on the defence and finally Saints' driving tactics worked culminating with captain and No.8 Justin Joubert deservedly touching down.
Saints' full-back Mark Kentish pushed the conversion wide but there were still a couple of minutes left for the home side to salvage the game.
Saints duly retained possession extremely well without threatening the opposition's line.
However, with seconds on the clock the referee awarded a penalty to St Albans when Chiswick strayed off-side.
When questioned, he informed both captains that it was the last play of the game. Stride forward Kentish for the final shot from wide out right.
The crowd, for once silent, stared forward. He struck it sweetly enough, but the ball faded across the front of the posts.
Safely caught and grounded by a Chiswick player, the referee sure enough blew for full time. St. Albans, although clearly disappointed, could take something from a game they could or maybe should have won.
All St Albans' remaining fixtures will be tough but the gamethis weekend, against bottom side Finchley, takes on a renewed importance.
St Albans: Kentish, Coy, Alderton, Sharp, Tsangari, Howard, Trude; Lemiere, Callan, O'Leary, Hillier, Lane, Huddleston, Bickle, Joubert. Reps: Weldon, Stanford, Stevenson.