Morgan Thompson’s one handed chargedown of Jack Lloyd’s third conversion attempt of the afternoon ultimately settled matters in the visitors’ favour; yet there was still a full half of this rumbustious match to go at this moment and the scrum half surely pushed hard for Dan Watt’s eventual man of the match award with his smart distribution throughout.
There is no doubt of the wealth of talent in this side and it is also true that too many opportunities go begging when careless mistakes are made. Individuals shine but the team as a whole at times makes life more difficult than it might otherwise be. Serious attention needs to be paid to precision under pressure.
A cracking start put OAs in the driving seat after just four minutes and Thompson opened the scoring with a try after a no nonsense catch and drive on the right. Albanians almost showed an indifference to the Clifton defence and Chris West crossed by the posts after great speed and skill from Chris Napier and Rhys Verley. Watt added the extras.
Then home fly half Lloyd took a hand (his brother is full back for the Bears) and his scintillating break made Zak Hamid’s touchdown an easy matter. The ten’s conversion was masterful.
Just before the half hour Clifton showed they too could catch and drive and this time loose head Ricardo Cano was the beneficiary. Lloyds kick gave the hosts the lead for the first time. Five minutes before the break West notched his second directly from the base of a powerful OA scrum for Watt to convert. Then an OA error gave Clifton a lineout and a straightforward backs move allowed Bentley Halpin (son of the late Irish legend Gary) the simplest of tries. There followed the Thompson chargedown.
Clifton gained the first bonus point try with another catch and drive ten minutes after the restart, Niall Gibbons with the award. Sure-footed Lloyd obliged with the kick. A’s bonus point try followed three minutes later when Watt made the most of another forthright scrum. The centre’s kick tied the scores again.
Two Albanian mistakes in kickable distance seemed to have secured the spoils for the hosts as the end drew close. Yet an attempted drop goal gave possession to the visiting back row who between them ploughed upfield. Then, making expert use of the overlap on the left, Watt rounded the last defender to touch down half way out. A nerveless Thompson gave the visitors the narrowest of victories.