Old Albanians 17 1stXV 18, Match Report, Sep 10
Ampthill travelled 28 miles south to Woollams, spectacular home of hosts Old Albanians, on a dreary damp afternoon with constant rain or drizzle often blown horizontally by the stiff breeze.
The pitch was in fine condition, unfortunately neither sides handling skills matched the quality of the playing surface, the game being very stop start with little continuity and both sides earning the referee’s displeasure far too frequently.
Defence was the keyword with both teams refusing to allow their opposition any space, neither could establish any kind of platform and both sets of backs were reduced to spectators for much of the game, except in their defensive roles.
The first half saw neither pack with much of an advantage at the set piece, in the second strangely, there were periods when first one then the other were in the ascendancy while both sides reserved their few line breaks for the half when they played into the wind!
The lead changed hands 7 times during the game with Ampthill securing the win with a last minute penalty goal struck from in front of the posts but 40m out.
In truth Old Albanians did not deserve to lose this game, it’s doubtful that they will play this well defensively and lose again, equally the visitors will be unlikely to play as badly offensively and win again. Neither side played with accuracy or precision, both depending upon the others mistakes for their scores.
After an opening 10 minutes in which the game was mostly played between the 22 areas Amptill opened the scoring on 12 minutes when fly half Joseph Tarrant’s cross field kick was collected on the bounce by full back Steffan Jones who grubbered past the cover for left wing Sam Baker to win the foot race to the ball wide on the left, Tarrant’s touch line conversion attempt being driven wide by the wind.
On 17 minutes OAs centre Christopher May converted a penalty goal after Amps were penalised at a breakdown, followed just 4 minutes later by a second, this time more difficult 3 pointer. The next 15 minutes saw A’s make a couple of line breaks but the hosts scramble defence was up to the task while the mid field collisions were brutal.
In the 31st minute Tarrant returned the penalty goal complement leaving the score 6-8 at oranges.
Leading, just, at the break, Ampthill’s connections would have been the happier since the visitors had the benefit of the wind for the second half.
On 58 minutes May converted another penalty goal to regain the lead for the home side. Just 4 minutes later Old Albanian extended their lead with an unconverted try after Amps, on the attack in the home 22, turned the ball over and then made three further consecutive errors, effectively gifting field position for the fine break by OAs flanker Harry Bate, well supported by full back Nicholas Foster.
The 68th minute saw A’s awarded a penalty try after Foster interfered with wing Karim Lynch who was winning the race to a grubber, Tarrant adding the extras and Foster earning a yellow card.
Now trailing by 1pt the hosts responded with a 40m penalty goal from May into the teeth of the wind to regain the lead.
The restart came with just a minute and a half of regular time remaining, a knock on gave the visitors a scrum in front of the posts 40m out. Ampthill got the drive on at the scrum resulting in a penalty goal chance with what would likely be the last kick of the game. Up stepped Tarrant to send the ball between the posts for the final lead change.
There was still time for the restart but an Albanian player was penalised for taking out the catcher and the ensuing penalty to touch ended the game.
Director of Rugby Mark Lavery commented “OAs made life difficult for us and deserved more from the game, however, our performance was simply not good enough, we need to take a long hard look in the mirror. There is no excuse for serial errors gifting length of the field position resulting in points conceded, we will address these issues in training next week.”
Scores – Old Albanians
Try:- Foster (58)
Penalties:- May (17, 21, 51, 74)
Trys:- Baker (12), Penalty (66)
Conversion:- Tarrant (67)
Penalties:- (31, 79)