Old Albanian 31 Wharfedale 7
Old Albanian won their first game of the season after producing a strong performance in the second half. The first half was not the most entertaining of matches with neither side able to find much fluency.
Dale had the better of the early exchanges but failed to score. Two superb rolling mauls took Dale deep into the opposition 22 and a chance for three points. Hoping for more than three points it was decided to go for the corner. OA’s seemed to have learnt from the students and, because they did not compete against the catch and drive, the attack ended with an accidental offside decision and relief for the defenders.
Quick play by the home side took them to Dale’s 22 and an attacking line out. A crooked throw gave the Greens the put in at the scrum. All seemed well and the Albanian front row popped up but the ref awarded a penalty to Old Albanian. They took full advantage from here and a kick to the corner was followed up with a catch and, although the drive was halted, Ross Hamilton crossed for a try. Elliot Reeder added the conversion.
Dale had lost both wing forwards by this time with both Tom Burridge and Chris Howick off with injuries. The visitors soon reorganised and started to dominate.
The home side had little possession for the rest of the half but still had enough for their dangerous centre to show his paces with two superb breaks, the second ending close to Dale’s line.
The Green Machine’s domination up front led to a yellow card to Albanian’s No 8 and a penalty try, converted by Tom Davidson.
Cicognini fielded the kick off and made a promising break and a penalty soon followed. Another good kick (into the breeze) from Davidson gave Dale a line out on OA’s 10 metre line. The catch and drive worked and 25 metres were gained, and another penalty and a second yellow card were the result of great work from the Dale’s forwards. Again Dale went for the corner. The drive was held up and a scrum awarded to OA’s brought cheers from the home supporters and half time.
The travelling faithful were looking forward to the second half with such domination and the advantage of playing with the breeze. How wrong they were. Old Albanian reorganised and came out playing with determination and they got better as the second half progressed.
The opening of the second half saw mistakes from both sides before a crafty grubber kick from James Doherty pushed the southerners back to their own 22.
From here OA’s started to build through strong running from their backs, a better line out and a stronger performance from their pack. They were awarded a penalty in mid field which was slotted by Richard Gregg to nudge them in front.
With Richard Gregg having been moved to stand off at half time the OA backs were now moving effectively and making great strides into Dale’s territory. The forwards were joining in this more confident spirit and parity in numbers was soon restored with a yellow card handed to Alex Powell. A converted penalty try for the Hertfordshire side soon followed and they stretched the lead to 17-7.
When both sides were restored to 15 it was still Old Albanian that played the more expansive rugby.
Both sides were making mistakes but Wharfedale were guilty of putting more pressure on themselves by compounding a mistake with another and were on the back foot a lot of the time.
From a scrum just in Dale’s half OA’s won the ball and a move left brought no. 8 Billy Johnson into the line. He seemed to breeze through and went unopposed under the posts to make the score, after a successful conversion to 24-7.
A short kick off was claimed by Dan Stockdale but the chance to attack was squandered when the ball was dropped in midfield. OA’s came close to scoring but were held up over the line and a promising build up from Dale ended with a grubber kick that was claimed by the Albanian defence who ran the ball back. Missed tackles and good support play saw the ‘best team in Hertfordshire’ go the length of the field for a bonus point try for Sam Lunnon which was converted to make the final score 31-7.
Both Head Coach, Jon Feeley, and Club Captain, James Doherty, stated their disappointment after the match. James was upset at the second half performance saying “we knew what we had to do in the second half but we did not execute it. We lost discipline at vital moments and in important areas of the pitch” He finished by saying that “we cannot play rugby on the back foot”. These sentiments were echoed by Jon who went on to say that “there was no lack of effort from the team”. He had hoped for better “decision making in crucial areas on the field”.
Hats off to Old Albanian for their second half display and their first win of the season. To end on a positive note; Wharfedale’s line out was perfect with every ball won. One thing I was impressed with was their supporters who, despite the terrible start to the season, were right behind them (apart from the odd moan when the line out creaked). Lets hope the Avenue will lift our lads next week at home to Blaydon.
Taylor Prell; Scott Jordan, Phil Woodhead (Lloyd Davies 64), Tom Davidson, Oliver Cicognini; Luke Stevenson (Phil Woodhead 72), James Doherty; Chris Steel (Matt Beesley 42), Ian Larkin (Dan Stockdale), Jake Armstrong (Chris Steel 64), Simon Willet, Richard Rhodes, Tom Burridge (Jim Mason 10), Chris Howick (Alex Powell 14, Jake Armstrong 75), Josh Burridge.