There is, these days, normally a surprise in store when watching OAs. This week onlookers watched a demonstration of, ultimately, winning rugby but played for the first hour with no lineout possession at all; thus anyone concerned about what might go wrong when Albanians threw in was spared that worry since absolutely nothing went right. This was more surprising since a lighter visiting pack had little trouble maintaining better than equality at scrum time.
When, eventually, throwins started to go as planned with Chris Napier collecting snappily in the centre of the line, the story of this entertaining match had turned one way and then the other at least twice.
Rochford had struck first almost immediately after the kickoff when giant loosehead Najee Mundicha proved unstoppable from close range. Albanians responded with a lineout-ignoring twenty six points without reply. Tom Stileman, Alex Noot, twice, and Skipper Nic Defeo shredded the home defence in the space of half an hour. Dan Watt had added three conversions. Job done, one would think.
Not a bit of it! Obdurate Essex tenacity punished any Albanian slackening as play moved from end to end. Maciu Nabogi and, as the encounter entered the final quarter, Aston Bevans-Royston both crossed, winger Dudman converting once and adding a penalty to bring the margin to just four points. Defeo’s second, on the hour, scored immediately after the imagined end of this Rochford fightback gave a little breathing space to the beleaguered visitors.
Which interlude ended abruptly when Dudman took his own route to the OA line. Twelve nervous minutes were to be endured untill the five points were secure.
But Albanians were winning lineout ball by then so nobody needed to worry…