It would be kindest to the selection team to say there were several changes to the side this week as Albanians continued their successful start to the new season. There is a new emphasis on fast, attacking play just now and last Saturday showed how important this is likely to be if OAs are to battle it out at the top of the table.
Traditionally Midlands sides pride themselves on ‘old style’ forward prowess, perhaps more suited to the days when there were far more scrums and lineouts in evidence. The Albanian pack, not heavyweight in any of their outings this year, were put to the test in scrum and lineout this week. Yet sterling work at the breakdown and in defence, and some slick work by the backs, eventually saw the team come away with a result which, at the death, was a lot closer than it might have been.
Dan Watt, for the third week in a row, opened the scoring with a penalty shortly after which Hinckley cleared carelessly to Alex Noot standing twenty metres in front of his posts. The full back accelerated and sidestepped a disbelieving defence to cross fully four fifths of the pitch later, completely untouched. Watt added the extras and play settled down for an extended period as the crowd got their breath back.
Then Hinckley served notice of their heritage and after a series of powerful scrums Rory Vowles followed up his accurate grubber and Joe Wilson improved a fine try. Stung to immediate reaction Albanians gathered their own restart and Jo Terry-Brown hurried to the line. Watt obliged with the conversion but didn’t quite reach his own high kicking standards when first Morgan Thompson and then Jarryd Sage breached the defence, the second after a magical mishandle from Noot.
7-27 at the break and an OA bonus point and it seemed all was over. The hosts had very different ideas as their forwards largely took charge. Fifteen minutes in and As had hardly been out of their own half. Pressure normally tells and lock Andrew Weaver finally breached the OA line. Wilson converted and improved his own try as the match entered the final quarter, a scant six points now separating the combatants. A strike by Watt in the right corner was deemed a knock on by the far touch judge who was bated even by the home crowd for his trouble.
It seemed all over bar the shouting when Ben Charnock touched down on the other side of the field but it was Ben Pointon who had the last word with the try which gave his side their second league point of the day.
A close run thing!