Tabard Match Report – 15/3
Final score: Tabard 5 – OAs 55 (HT:5- 24)
County Cup & Division 2 Double Header
The As eased past their Radlett rivals, notching up their second 50-pointer of the season, progressing to the semi-final of the County Cup and securing promotion to Division One. Definitely a result to make the team’s mums proud on Mothering Sunday.
OAs opened the scoring after four minutes, exploiting the width of the pitch from a penalty move after a high opposition tackle – winger Joe Hall sprinting across the line. Full-back Hayden Kemp-Robertson duly converted; the ball crashing into the clubhouse window to announce the presence of the boys from St Albans.
Tabard narrowed the deficit after ten minutes, tumbling into the corner after the As conceded two rapid penalties inside their own 22 (conversion missed).Indeed, this turned out to be a game dominated by the shrill retort of the referee’s whistle: the penalty count against the OAs was 26 by the end of play; including four incidents of being told to retreat a further ten yards.
Despite their frustrations, the As managed to stay level-headed for the duration of the game itself and ended up routing the opposition. Left winger Ashley Willing got things going on 15 minutes, zipping over the line after superb play in the build-up from scrum-half Kit Shepard and returning centre, Stephen Heaney.(Fine conversion by HKR to make it 14-5)
Two minutes later, centre Fraser Leggett increased the lead with a powerful run hrough the Tabard ranks – including a hand-off of which your common or garden superhero would have been immensely proud. (Conversion missed)
The As pack was dominant by now – with Freddie Deacon claiming two out of three turnovers – the last of which led to the As’ fourth try; with Hayden Kemp Robertson cutting inside to draw in a couple of defenders in order to create space for Sam Caro to crash over close the corner. (Conversion missed). This sent OAs into half-time 24-5 ahead, with a promotion-sealing bonus point already in the bag.
The team talk during the break was short and snappy: the As were instructed to keep their discipline, accept the referee’s decisions and to create chances by patiently getting the ball out wide and occasionally chipping it over the heads of the fast-advancing Tabard backs.
OAs totally dominated the second half, despite the pace of the game being impeded by the high penalty count against them. Three minutes into the half, Freddie Deacon came agonizingly close to scoring after a clever box chip from fly half Charlie Ringland, but the ball was held up in a heap of desperate defenders. Fortunately, the impressive James McCallum barged his way between the posts from the resultant penalty – duly converted by HKR (31-5)
Tabard held out for twelve minutes before Alex ‘Polar Bear’ Meredith mopped up when Joe Hall was denied two metres from the line after cutting inside (Conversion scraped the outside of the post (36-5). Ashley Willing bagged his second try of the day on 50 minutes after a strong run and sublime offload from James McCallum after Tabard threatened to breach the As’ rearguard. (Converted: 43-5)
With two minutes left on the clock, centre Rory Hextall capped off an assertive performance with a neat solo try. HKR converted in front of the posts to ensure that the As finished in style by hitting the big five-oh.
Fullerians Match Report – 8/3
OAs 57 – Fullerians 12 (HT:19-12)
Patience and perseverance were the names of the game today, as the As soaked up plenty of opposition pressure in the first half before running riot in the second, to secure a 57-12 win on home soil.
The first period was a tight encounter. The Fullerians pack bossed proceedings in the middle of the park, pressing the home side into conceding two penalties in the first 90 seconds. In contrast, the As backs provided a master-class in counter-attacking rugby, passing at pace during rare moments of possession to open up space and stretch the defence
OAs opened the scoring, against the run of play. Centre Fraser Leggett came inside, took the contact and passed to winger Joe Hall before leaping up and snatching the return pass just inside the 22 and charging his way past some despairing tackles. (Converted by number 15, Hayden Kemp-Robertson)
The lead was held for a mere five minutes. Fullerians came back at the As and kept the ball firmly in the home side’s half. A try inevitably came: scored after the number 8 came round the back of a scrum and found too generous an amount of space in front of him. The try was converted, to make the scores level at 7-7.
Fullerians continued to boss the rucks and outmuscle the As in contact. It looked like the pendulum was swinging in their favour until back-rower James McCallum scored a superb sole try, beating three tackles in a thirty-metre dash for the line. (Tricky conversion made by HKR: 14-7)
By now, the As were growing in confidence and were playing with greater discipline and momentum. Their phased play was rewarded on 22 minutes when winger Ashley Willing steamed into the corner after great work in the build up by Max Fryer. (Conversion missed: 19-7)
Fullers continued to fight hard for territory and made life awkward for their St Albans hosts, using their bulk to force over a try close to half-time. Conversion missed: 19-12.
The instructions from the coaches at half-time were to put more pressure on Fullers at the breakdown and to generate quick ball for the backs, who had already shown their superiority against their opposite numbers.
Showing patience and maturity, OAs had to wait nine minutes for the breakthrough in the second period, with the away team refusing to play the role of underdogs. Joe Hall finished off an exemplary team move, sparked by scrum half Kit Shepard switching direction with an acrobatic pass. (Conversion missed: 24-12)
Three minutes later Ashley Willing made it 29-12 after Tobias at number 8 gained considerable ground and offloaded to Joe Hall who drew the opposition in and popped it neatly to his fellow winger to score. (Converted by HKR: 31-12)
By now, Fullers (who had no substitutes) were beginning to wilt against a fit and determined opposition. The As showed their ruthless streak in the final eight minutes, running in four unanswered tries. Inside centre Rory Hextall delivered a fantastic five pointer with a blistering solo run from the half-way line, jinxing his way through the ranks to make it 36-12. (Converted by HKR: 38-12)
Two minutes later, Fraser Leggett zipped down the flanks to score his second of the day. (Converted by HKR: 45-12)
On 27 minutes, plucky winger Reece O’Neil nudged his team onto the 50-mark with a try next to the corner flag after fine work in the build-up from Sam Caro and Joe Hall. (Conversion missed)
In the last play Joe Hall secured his team’s ninth try, being able to run practically unopposed through a vanquished away defence. The try was converted by fly-half Charlie Ringland to make the final score 57-12; the highest points tally of the season so far for the table-topping As.
Finchley Match Report – 11/1
Finchley 17 – OAs 19 (HT: 12-12)
A depleted As side continued their winning streak on a windy day at Summers Lane, edging out First Division Finchley by the narrowest of margins.
OAs stormed into a 5-0 lead in the second minute, with stand-in flanker Alex Cox finishing off a patient build-up. Three minutes later winger Ashley Willing doubled the advantage, strapping on the afterburners to beat the home side for pace after being released by honorary forward, Rory Hextall. (Converted by full-back Hayden Kemp-Robertson to make it 12-0)
Stung into action, Finchley started playing with greater intensity but were thwarted by a try-saving tackle by captain Oli Moody on ten minutes. However, the As didn’t quite manage the same level of commitment four minutes later when Finchley stole down the inside from a scrum to pull five points back.
OAs then enjoyed a spell of territorial advantage, which included some excellent offloading from the likes of Freddie Deacon. Just as it looked like the As would score, a Finchley player (who it turns out has been snapped up by Wasps’ academy) executed a brilliantly-timed interception deep in his own 22 to run unopposed between the posts. The try was converted to make the score 12-12 at half time.
The As faced a tough task in the second half, playing into a strong wind. The game plan was to keep tight possession and to ‘muck their rucks up’ to prevent recycled ball.
A special mention has to go to Joel McKinnon, who stepped up from the C team to play as a substitute forward, with Rory switching to scrum half – replacing Kit ‘Date With Destiny’ Shepard, who had to hot foot it to Old Trafford to watch his beloved Southampton FC defeat Manchester United for the first time in 27 years.
Fortunately his teammates played like saints, absorbing several minutes of Finchley pressure and showing great awareness at the line out. Winger Reece O’Neil managed to prevent a try by nudging a runner into touch two metres from the line and two minutes later a Finchley centre was harried into an error by a swarming OAs defence.
The As’ resilience was rewarded 14 minutes into the half when Joe Hall, playing at outside centre, was presented with a gap which he exploited superbly to send the away side into the lead. Hayden Kemp-Robertson then scored what proved to be a vital conversion, to make it 19-12.
Urged on by their coaches on the touchline, the hosts pressed hard for a try. The valiant As kept them at bay until the very last play of the game, when Finchley managed to squeeze the ball over the line in the right-hand corner. The OA contingent held its breath, but fortune favoured Hertfordshire today as the conversion crashed against the outside of the post and fell onto the Middlesex mud, making the final score 17-19.
Hertford Match Report – 14/12
Hertford 17-25 OAs A
A depleted A team, missing four County Players, produced another gritty display to beat Hertford by five tries to three at Hoe Lane and therefore finish the first half of the season with an unbeaten record. Today’s victory was the third time that the St Albans boys have defeated First Division opponents since being relegated in the summer.
Due to the various absences, the coaches were forced into a last-minute reshuffle. James Jarman stepped up from the Bs to take the outside centre birth, with winger Reece O’Neil making the switch to full back in order for Hayden Kemp-Robertson to play the inside centre role. Charlie Irish joined the bench after playing a full game for the Cs immediately beforehand. During the course of the game, he acted as both centre and flanker (blood replacement) and deserves a huge round of applause for his endeavours.
With a strong wind at their backs, Hertford started the strongest but the As withstood some early pressure and managed to go 5-0 up on 15 minutes when captain Oli Moody surged over the line after a period of pressure and intense rucking in the opposition 22.
Old Albanians defended stoutly for nine minutes but finally buckled when the Herford Number 10 tricked his way into space after running from the back of a scrum and planting the ball down close to the posts. A conversion saw the home team go into the half-time break 7-5 up.
The second half was an equally bruising and evenly contested affair, with both packs showing grit at the breakdown. Once again, it was the As who scored first: an awesome individual try from Number 8 Tobias Munday after two minutes. He pocketed the ball at the back of a scrum several yards inside his own half and set off on a barnstorming run into the corner, brushing tacklers aside like pesky flies. (10-7)
The As went further ahead four minutes later when Hayden Kemp-Robertson capitalized on panic behind the Hertford line, whamming a loose ball down after pressure from winger Ashley Willing had caused a spillage. (15-7)
Egged on by an their coaching staff, Hertford upped the ante and managed to narrow the gap to 15-12 after 13 minutes of the half. Six minutes later they nudged themselves into a narrow 17-15 lead after a strong run from a penalty – which, in truth, the As should have closed down.
Credit to the Old Albanian boys though. They refused to let their heads drop and their efforts were rewarded with five minutes left on the clock after Hertford were penalized in a scrum just inside their own 22. Seizing on this unexpected territorial advantage, the As drove the ball forward and Tobias managed to ground his second try of the game under a heap of players. The conversion hit the post, making the score 20-17.
A try from winger Joe Hall three minutes later made the game safe. Hall shouted for the ball from a penalty and executed a trademark mazy run before finishing close to the corner flag, despite a last ditch Hertford tackle. Final score: 25-17 to the As.
The impact of this excellent victory was clearly felt by the boys, who conducted a rousing rendition of ‘The OAs Are Happy’ as soon as they hit the changing room!
London Welsh Match Report – 23/11
OAs 14 – London Welsh 12 (HT:14-0)
This week’s match report is shorter and less detailed than usual, due to the reporter’s notepaper turning to mulch in the rain and his fingers being too cold to activate his phone screen thereafter.
This could well turn out to be the game that defines the As’ season. The Old Albanian boys had to fight until the very last second to protect a two-point lead that keeps them at the top of the Second Division table.
Despite the atrociously wet conditions, the As outclassed their opponents in the first half, enjoying the lion’s share of possession. London Welsh were well drilled and competed energetically at the breakdown. However, the As started with the kind of cohesion and commitment that has defined their season so far. Forward Max Fryer sent them into the lead in the seventh minute, barging his way through from a penalty. (Converted by Hayden Kemp-Robertson).
In the 14th minute, OAs doubled their lead with an eye-catching DA2 move straight off the training ground. From a scrum on the five-metre line, fly-half Charlie Ringland executed a dummy switch with inside centre Rory Hextall and full back Kemp-Robertson appeared out of nowhere to secure the ball and blaze through the gap that had opened up in front of the posts. He then converted the subsequent kick to set up a 14-0 lead that would prove vital in the second half.
Despite their territorial advantage, the As couldn’t find their way through for a third try. The driving rain and chilly temperature meant that the game was riddled with handling errors and knock-ons from both teams and the usually dominant OA wingers barely got a look-in. The As were finding it increasingly hard to adapt, sometimes failing to control the ball in contact and not getting close enough to receive short, simple passes from their team-mates. But to their credit, the kept their opponents well and truly at bay for the entire 30 minutes.
With the wind and rain at their backs in the second half and knowing that they had to fight their way back into the game London Welsh threw the kitchen sink at the home side. They got their reward after eight minutes, capitalizing on a rash kick from the As to crash over the line. (Conversion missed)
Nine minutes later, Welsh narrowed the lead to set up a nail-biting finish. The As thought they had nudged their opposing winger into touch, but the flag didn’t come and the away team managed to work the ball back inside and found space to score. (Converted: 14-12).
Huge credit has to go to the As for digging deep in the remaining quarter. Marshaled by a fiercely determined captain, Oli Moody and inspired by the endeavour of Sam Caro, Freddie Deacon and Tom Sherwood, the entire team battled like Trojans despite intense Welsh pressure. Having been camped inside their own 22 for practically the entire half, the final whistle was greeted with a huge roar of relief from the victorious As.
An extremely satisfying victory, proving that this OAs squad is capable of wining ugly when the situation demands it.
Bedford Match Report – 2/11
Bedford 0 Old Albanians 28 (HT: 0-7)
The As earned a psychological boost at Wentworth Drive today, running out clear winners against a Division 1 side.
Keen to enforce a strict interpretation of the laws, the referee was quick to blow his whistle, which meant that both teams struggled to build any momentum in a keenly contested opening ten minutes. After soaking up some pressure, the As managed to break away and score in the 11th minute. A nifty feint from scrum half Kit Shepard and nice hands by winger Joe Hall and centre Fraser Leggett released flanker Oli Moody who barged over the line, close to the corner flag.
Exploiting a favourable wind, full-back Hayden Kemp-Robertson converted from the touchline – just!
The As defended their lead, with the pack in fine form – especially flanker Sam Carro who managed to push the largest opposition player back eight yards. When the mazy Bedford full-back did manage to pierce a hole in the OAs armour, winger Reece O’Neill was on hand to shuffle him into touch.
The final stages of the half turned into ‘squeaky bum time’. With seconds left on the clock, the As elected to run the ball rather than booting it to safety. Bedford managed to turn them over, only to lose possession and see the St Albans boys come within inches of scoring their second try.
The As bossed the second half, running in three unanswered tries – all converted by HKR. The first try came on 33 minutes, with Kemp-Robertson jinxing past two defenders after excellent recycling and support play from multiple players in the build-up. Three minutes later, Joe Hall scored an eye-catching try – sparked by a cheeky rip from prop Max Fryer and a surge down the line by Fraser Leggett.
Hall bagged the fourth and final try, sprinting from inside his own half after the As won a line-out on their 5-metre line.
The game was halted two minutes early after another injury to a Bedford player meant that they would be finishing the game with 14 men.
There were plenty of positives to take away from this friendly fixture, but lots of lessons too. The team needs to learn to adjust to the diktats and idiosyncrasies of the referee. Despite clear evidence of a fast whistle, the As were guilty throughout the 60 minutes of being slow to release, failing to roll away and straying into offside positions.
Hopefully the scoreline proves that they are more effective when working as a unit. A patient, disciplined, phased approach pays dividends, whereas whenever they opt for the solo approach, they tend to get turned over and isolated.
All in all, a solid and educational morning’s work.
Ruislip Match Report – 19/10
Ruislip 12 – 26 OAs As (HT: 5-14)
The As delivered a superb team performance to edge out a competitive Ruislip team by four tries to two at West End Road today. Despite being depleted by injuries and holiday absences, the St Albans boys showed great resilience and teamwork in order to withstand sustained periods of pressure from the home side.
This was one of those extremely satisfying displays where it was impossible to pick an obvious man of the match: every single member of the team ‘dug deep’ and worked extremely hard to grind out a win.
The As dominated the opening quarter, showing an increasingly mature combination of purpose and patience in attack. Ruislip were combative in the rucks, but OAs gave as good as they got. Even the reshuffled scrum stood up to a heavier home pack. The reward came after 11 minutes when winger Joe Hall neatly finished off a multi-phased build-up. Full-back Hayden Kemp-Robertson converted from the touchline to make it 7-0.
Rattled, the home side came straight back at the As, who were rescued by some resilient defending from the likes of flanker Tom Sherwood, prop Matt Swift and hooker Freddie Deacon – not to mention some great work in the line-outs from Toby Pearce. Eventually, Ruislip’s territorial advantage paid off when they took advantage of a space in the corner to claw back 5 points after 19 minutes of play. (Conversion missed).
The game was evolving into a tight, competitive affair with both sides playing excellent rugby in exactly the right spirit. The As gained the upper hand with two minutes of the half remaining. Lewis Butterworth touched down in the corner after superb work in the build-up by fellow substitute Jack Shepherd, prop Sam Atkinson and fly half Charlie Ringland. A lovely team try; converted by HKR to make the halftime score 14-5.
With a strong wind at their backs, Ruislip flew at OAs at the start of the second half but were repelled by some tough tackles from second rower Alex Meredith and flanker Sam Carro. The As absorbed four minutes of attack before stunning the home side with an absolute peach of a try. The move started in defence with a speedy surge from Jack Shepherd and some gutsy protection from Tom Sherwood and Fraser Leggett. The As guarded the ball brilliantly and rattled off a string of passes along the line to gift it to the speedy Reece O’Neill who dashed into the corner to make it 19-5. (Missed conversion)
A moment of controversy saw the home team sneak their second try on eight minutes. Distracted by a pile up, the referee missed a blatant knock-on from a Ruislip forward that would have looked more at home on a basketball court. All of the As players stopped, expecting a whistle (along with both sets of coaches and supporters). However, the Middlesex front-rower capitalized on his good fortune and rumbled unchecked between the posts. This was a harsh outcome, but a valuable lesson for the boys: always play to the whistle. The ‘phantom’ try was duly converted, to make the score a nervy 19-12. (In the interests of balance though, the As were lucky not to concede a penalty try earlier in the half for a deliberate knock-on, so karma prevailed.)
Ruislip now had their tail feathers up and visibly grew in confidence, cheered on by their parents and other squads on the touchline. It was backs-to-the-walls stuff for OAs now, but they responded with commendable grit and determination. An exceptional last-man tackle from full-back Hayden Kemp-Robertson prevented a third try, getting in low to flatten Ruislip’s fastest player as he tore past the 5-metre line.
Special credit should also go to scrum half Kit Shepard who took a knee to the face but insisted on going back onto the pitch as soon as his nose had stopped bleeding. This epitomized the OAs spirit today.
Captain Oli Moody valiantly urged on his troops and Ruislip were held at bay. Showing high levels of fitness, the As finished the game in the ascendency. The two wingers, Willing and Hall were now seeing more of the ball and it was no surprise when Hall dashed through in the last play to seal a hard-fought victory and grab a deserved bonus point. To put the icing on the cake, the try was converted by HKR to make the final score 26-12.
Credit to the boys for a fantastic all-round display. Once again they worked hard as a unit and communicated positively with each other throughout the game. Ruislip were tough competitors but the As withstood some intense periods of pressure and stuck to their game plan of patient phases that simply ground down the opposition. Every single one of the team put a proper shift in today and they deserve their place at the top of the Division Two table after two games played.
Biggleswade Match Report – 5/10
OAs U15s As 45 – 24 Biggleswade (HT: 33-5)
The As got their Second Division campaign off to a victorious start in the sunshine at Woollams, despite suffering two yellow cards in a rollercoaster second half.
Promotion winners Biggleswade proved to be committed and well-organised opponents, more than matching the As in the opening exchanges. However, it was the home team who scored first, courtesy of winger Joe Hall whose guile and pace outfoxed the away team’s defence on five minutes. (Try converted by full-back Hayden Kemp-Robertson).
Biggleswade came straight back at the As, snatching a try on seven minutes after pressurizing the St Albans side into committing two penalties in quick succession inside the 22. (Missed conversion: 7-5)
The As were guilty of playing too laterally across the back and committing sloppy errors at line outs and at the breakdown. However, just as Biggleswade looked to be asserting themselves, speed merchant Ashley Willing sprinted unopposed from just inside his own half to edge his team in front in the sixteenth minute. Converted by HKR to make the score 14-5.
Growing in confidence, the As started to exert some pressure, building their attack in patient phases. From a penalty on 24 minutes, second rower Sam Carro crashed through the Biggleswade defence, leaving Number 8, Tobias Munday to score from the pick-up: 19-5. (Missed conversion). Two minutes later, the home side further increased the advantage, after substitute Stephen Heaney neatly side-stepped his way over the line to make it 24-5 (converted by HKR: 26-5).
In the last play of the half, Joe Hall added his second and his team’s fifth try of the morning – skillfully cutting inside to leave three defenders chasing shadows. Converted by HKR, to send the As into the break 33-5 ahead.
The sheen of the performance was being spoiled by continued sloppiness in the rucks and mauls, which saw the penalty count mount and the patience of the referee begin to wear out.
This proved costly at the start of the second half. Several substitutions resulted in the As losing shape and stability, especially at the back. Yet another penalty allowed Biggleswade to force themselves over the line and reach double figures five minutes into the action. (Converted: 33-10) They surged in confidence and really started to attack the home team. It was no surprise when they clawed another try back four minutes later – an excellent conversion making the score 33-19.
The As were committing too many errors and the penalty count was mounting – as was the tension on the touchline! The referee’s patience finally snapped and he issued the first of two yellow cards to the As pack – in both cases a question of ‘taking one for the team’ rather than for a specific individual offence. The team will definitely have to take on board some lessons in discipline and tighter observance of the laws in their next competitive game.
Credit to the boys though; with 14 men they withstood several minutes of pressure and managed to sneak a vital sixth try to create a 38-19 cushion. Flanker Oli Moody started a move on his own 10-metre line to release Ashley Willing. Moody followed the winger up the pitch in support and was on hand to convert in the corner. (Conversion missed)
Stephen Heaney grabbed the As’ seventh try of the game with six minutes remaining, after superb play in the build up from Hayden Kemp-Robertson and substitute Reece O’Neill. Converted by fly-half Charlie Ringland: 43-19.
Biggleswade refused to bow down though, and were rewarded for their efforts after capitalizing on another line-out error by OAs, earning a bonus point for a third try. (Conversion missed: 45-24)
The game finished with the As committing three successive penalty fouls, triggering their second yellow card of the day.
This was certainly an action-packed match against decent opposition, with plenty of encouraging signs from the As. When they defend as a unit and take a patient, relentless approach to phases they look dangerous – especially once the wingers are unleashed into the space that inevitably opens up. However, the boys need to sharpen up at the breakdown and cut out the sloppy errors. The penalty count was unacceptably high today: greater concentration and nous required for the next league game against Ruislip on the 19th.
But bravo for the victory and the points today!
Brentwood Match Report – 14/9
OAs 36 – 5 Brentwood (HT: 12- 5)
A thoroughly committed and disciplined performance by the As produced an astonishing 36-5 victory over a skillful Brentwood team packed with Essex Count players.
After suffering a heavy defeat in the parallel fixture last year, OAs got off to a nervy start at Woollams. Brentwood were faster to the ball and dominant at the breakdown. The pressure quickly paid off, with the Essex team turning over a scrum in the fourth minute and then passing the ball fluidly along the line to score the opening try.
The fact that this was the only time that the As defence was to be breached for the rest of the game’s 55 minutes stands as a testament to the work ethic, team spirit and gritty determination of the boys. They barely got out of their own 22 in the first ten minutes, but gradually the confidence grew as they began to execute a game plan of ball retention/steady phases, quick decision-making and defending as a line.
Inside centre Fraser Leggett scored the equalizing try on 19 minutes, after a patient build-up breached a hole in the Brentwood defence. The As doubled their advantage in the last play of the half, courtesy of an aggressive run by winger Ashley Willing.(Converted by full-back Hayden Kemp-Robertson, to make the score 12-5).
The As got the second half off to a positive start, bossing the initial rucks and causing frustration to build amongst the Brentwood ranks. The home side’s efforts were rewarded on 36 minutes when Ashley Willing finished off an enterprising team move that featured excellent play from two debutants: fly half Charlie Ringland and Number 8 Tobias Munday to make it 17-5.
Brentwood upped the pace in an attempt to get back into the game – but they met a wall of resistance. The As withstood three phases of attack in a frenetic two-minute period of play that saw the ball being held up twice on line. When OAs finally cleared it to safety, the roar from the entire team epitomized the spirit of doggedness and togetherness that proved to be decisive today.
Victory was practically ensured with ten minutes left on the clock. Another patiently phased attack enabled flanker Oli Moody to ground the A’s fourth try of the morning(Conversion hit the post). By now Brentwood had lost the cohesion and competitiveness displayed in the first half. A rampant OAs ran in another two tries in the last eight minutes (both converted by HKR). First, Fraser Leggett rounded off another superb team move, and a fleet of foot Oli Moody profited from sustained As pressure to seal a superb 36-5 victory in front of a delighted home crowd.
Teddington Match Report – 23/3
Teddington 24 – 19 OAs (HT: 12-14)
A spirited performance and a bonus point were not enough to preserve the OAs’ status in the Herts & Middlesex First Division, as the St Albans team were narrowly beaten 24-19 by Teddington at Bushy Park.
The mixed weather – where sunshine gave way to cloud, high winds and a sudden rain shower – served as a metaphor for the As’ fortunes during a tense and absorbing 50 minutes of rugby. After losing centre Stephen Heaney to injury after 90 seconds and withstanding fourteen minutes of pressure, the away side broke the deadlock with a well-worked try. Tenacious scrum-half Kit Shepard secured the ball in a ruck and flicked an ambitious pass out wide to winger Ashley Willing, who used his superior pace to outflank the Teddington defence and plant the ball behind the posts. Full-back Hayden Kemp-Robertson duly converted to make it 7-0.
The As doubled their lead from the subsequent kick off: Number 8, Sam Carro caught the ball and offloaded to flanker, Tom Sav who somehow cut a hole straight through the opposition ranks and ran 60 metres to notch a superb solo try. (Converted: 14-0)
Requiring a win and a minimum of four tries in order to avoid relegation, prospects were looking good for the As. However, as the skies darkened things started to cloud over on the pitch. In the 22nd minute, weak tackling allowed Teddington to pull a try back (converted) and in the last play of the half the As were undone by a clever chip into the corner that bounced favourably into the hands of the home team’s best player. (Conversion missed).
OAs came close to extending their lead in the opening move of the second half, but a knock-on under pressure handed a scrum to Teddington. Four minutes later, the Middlesex side took the lead. Unfortunately, the referee missed a blatant knock-on in the build-up, but the As defence should have tackled harder to protect the try-line.
Ten minutes later, with the As penalty count rising, the home team scored their fourth and final try, squirming over the line through a crowd. A conversion made it 24-14. Credit to OAs, the boys refused to buckle and their endeavours were rewarded two minutes from the end with a determined try from captain Ollie Moody, after gritty work from centre Joe Hall and front-rower Sam Atkinson in the build-up.Final score 19-24.
The result was typical of the OAs’ season: the boys were combative and committed for much of the game, ran some excellent lines, competed well at the rucks and showed some good support. However, they gave away too many penalties and made incorrect decisions at times when there were opportunities and overlaps. As a team, the As boast some exceptional individual players but collectively, they haven’t quite added up to the sum of their parts. Plenty to work on for the semi final county cup and also for next season.
Bishops Stortford Match Report – 9/3
Saracens Match Report – 23/2
OAs 7 – Saracens 5 (HT 0-0)
A gritty and determined performance from start to finish saw the As seal a confidence-boosting victory in this friendly game against Saracens.
The league fixture back in October had seen the north London side demolish OAs 39-5. The difference today was the level of intensity and competitiveness shown by the As. Facing a heavier and well-drilled Saracens pack, the St Albans side displayed a fantastic work rate and superior fitness levels. They worked hard as a unit and supported each other commendably.
The first half was a tight, attritional affair. Overall, Saracens had the territorial advantage, but the As stood firm inside their own 22. Every player made influential tackles and put constant pressure on the away side, forcing them into several errors – including a knock-on only a metre from the line.
On 23 minutes, the As finally took advantage of a strong headwind; a big kick from Joe Hall causing panic in the Saracens defence. Despite winning two scrums in quick succession the As couldn’t quite capitalize, but had the satisfaction of finishing the half camped in the opposition 22 for the first time.
Space began to open up in the second half, with Saracens making the breakthrough inside the third minute after the As lost possession on the wing. After a patient number of phases, the away team managed to force the ball over the line to make it 5-0. (Missed conversion)
Credit to OAs; they refused to buckle and were rewarded seven minutes later when inside centre Fraser Leggett scored a superb try between the posts after good support work by winger Lewis Butterworth and fly-half Rory Hextall. Leggett started his run inside his own half, expertly avoiding several tackles en route to the try line. Full-back Hayden Kemp-Robertson converted into the wind to send the home team 7-5 up.
The As preserved their lead thanks to resolute defending, grit in the rucks and consistency in the line-outs. A great result against a strong team…
Welwyn Match Report – 2/2
OAs 10 – 24 Welwyn (HT: 0 -17)
The As may have lost by four tries to two against table-topping Welwyn, but the team left Hobbs Way with heads held high after a battling performance that saw them dominate the last fifteen minutes of the game.
The first half was tough. The As worked hard as a unit and showed great commitment at the breakdown but were undone by a ruthlessly efficient Welwyn side. The home team scored in their first attack, using their heaviest player to agricultural effect. Credit to Old Albanians: they refused to let their heads drop – competing strongly in the rucks and tacking hard to retain territorial advantage. In fact, it was against the run of play when a misplaced pass let Welwyn through; a pacey winger making it 10-0 on ten minutes. Eight minutes later, the home team grabbed their third try. The As span a scrum and Welwyn sent in their heavy artillery from the resulting penalty. The try was duly converted, to make the score a harsh 17-0 at half time.
The As didn’t help themselves at the start of the second half, with a handling error putting the backs under pressure. One turnover and two missed tackles later, the score was 22-0. (Converted). Fair play to the As though. The boys continued to fight hard and as the game wore on they were able to make their superior fitness and mobility show. Tom Sav and Sam Carro both made great headway with dogged runs, which seemed to further lift the As’ confidence. In the 19th minute of the half, the St Albans side got their just desserts, with Stephen Heaney scoring in the corner after an enterprising surge by fellow centre Fraser Leggett. For the remaining six minutes of the game, Old Albanians continued to pile on the pressure, forcing Welwyn to commit errors and lose their momentum.
The As’ tenacity forced three penalties in quick succession, allowing captain Ollie Moody to dive through a defensive gap on 23 minutes to make it 10-24.
The game ended with the As executing a ten-metre catch and drive, followed by a fluid passing move along the line to release Joe Hall who came agonizingly close to snatching a bonus point after steaming down the right wing . This was a great game to watch. Bravo to the As for giving Welwyn a real go.
Special mentions must go to forwards Tom Sherwood and Max Fryer who contributed two genuinely A-star performances.
The boys deserve to feel proud of their work rate they put in today. This was a brave, committed performance where they worked hard as a unit for the full 50 minutes against a very good team. Comments from the parents on the touchlines after the game made it clear that after the disappointment of Tring, this was a brilliant effort by the As. We finished the stronger and the fitter and we can take solace from the fact that we won the second half!
Tring Match Report – 26/1
OAs 5 – Tring 19 (HT: 0-12)
The As position in the Herts & Middlesex First Division was as bleak as the weather at the end of this tough encounter at a gusty, rain-lashed Woollams. Tring claimed their first victory of the season with a tenacious, aggressive performance, running in three tries to the home side’s one.
The As battled hard in atrocious conditions but found it hard to build any kind of rhythm. Tring bossed most of the game, tackling hard, winning turnovers, closing down fast and giving Albanian very little time on the ball. The appalling weather meant that handling errors were inevitable, leading to a high scrum count that suited the heavier Tring side.
Despite having the advantage of the wind at their backs in the first half, the As failed to capitalize. Instead of kicking for territory and giving their pacey backs some ball to chase, the home team tried to grind their way through a very solid and competitive Tring team who gave very little away at the breakdown.
Tring turned their superior possession into points, scoring the opening try after six minutes and their second in the last play of the half. In contrast, the As had mustered only one serious attack with the ball in hand in the same period.
Playing into the cold wind and driving rain in the second half made it a very difficult task for OAs, but the boys deserve credit for plugging away even after conceding a third try ten minutes in. Ironically, the As played their best rugby in the last ten minutes. Switching Fraser Leggett from Number 8 into his usual centre position gave the team a stronger cutting edge. They were rewarded with a try from second rower Jack Shepherd who forced his way through a heap of players close to the corner flag. The boys then came inches from snatching an unlikely bonus point with the last attack of the game, only for the ball to be knocked forward inches from the line. Final score 5-19.
Ealing Match Report – 8/12
Old Albanian As 5 – 7 Ealing (H-T 5-0)
Old Albanians failed to convert their superiority into points, as they werenarrowly edged out by Ealing in an absorbing, tightly contested game at Woollams.
The home side began the game brightly, looking solid as a unit and taking on board some of the lessons learned during the recent victory over Bishops Stortford. The forwards were swarming better and not giving the opposition much time on the ball. The backs looked lively, despite meeting some committed opposition tacklers on the flanks. The As took a deserved lead on 11 minutes after winning a penalty ten metres out. Sam Caro crashed through a crowd of defenders to score close to the right-hand corner flag. (Conversion attempt narrowly missed).
Ealing came straight back at As and managed to force the ball over the line, only for the referee to judge that it had been held up in the melee. The As managed to repel the subsequent scrum and from a line-out captain Ollie Moody made safe headway down the wing, only to be stopped by a strong tackle close to the half-way line. A punt forward from fly-half William Thomson caused panic in the Ealing defence but an injury to an opposing player brought a promising move to a halt.
Ealing were a well-organised unit who tackled quickly and distributed the ball well, the As’ early technical superiority meant that they should have gone into the half-time break with a bigger lead.
The As were competing well but as the game wore on they were guilty of giving away cheap penalties. It meant they found it hard to build any serious momentum in final the yards of the pitch. This ended up costing them dear, when Ealing scored in their first attack of the second half – grinding out a try from a move sparked by a sloppy penalty given away by the As. The conversion made it 7-5.
The away side piled on the pressure for the next ten minutes and came within inches of doubling their advantage – only to be thwarted by a splendid Jack Shepard tackle deep in the corner. A clever kick from centre Stephen Heaney gained valuable ground for the As, but once again the forward momentum was lost when another penalty foul was committed inside the 22m line. This became the pattern for the tense final ten minutes of the game, with the As trying valiantly to break through a workmanlike Ealing defence, only to be thwarted by handling errors and turnovers at crucial moments.
The final whistle signalled the end of the game with OAs being the wrong side of victory. This was a cruel result, as based on effort expended the boys didn’t deserve to lose.
Bishops Stortford Match Report – 24/11
OAs A’s 14 – 8 Bishops Stortford
A relieved Old Albanians team ground out their first win of the season on a grey day at Woollams. The first half was a frustrating affair, with the home side falling behind to an early penalty and then being unable to capitalise on superior possession and territory. Some errant handling and a catalogue of unforced errors, particularly at the breakdown, meant that the As failed to build any serious momentum and went in scoreless at the break. They had managed to ground the ball twice but winger Ashley Willing was penalised for his little toe grazing the touchline and Number 8 Sam Carro was adjudged to have executed a double movement in the scramble to score.
The result looked like going against Old Albanian when Bishops Stortford went 8-0 up after squeezing home a try six minutes into the second period. However, the As refused to let their heads drop and were quickly back in the game. Substitute centre Joe Hall finished off a committed team move, zipping gymnastically into the corner. Full-back Hayden Kemp-Robertson then executed a remarkable conversion into the wind from the touchline to make the score 7-8.
Soon afterwards the As were down to 14 men, with the referee deeming a marginally late tackle to be worthy of a yellow card. This setback seemed to galvanise the St Albans side, which was testament to their team spirit. The forwards ratcheted up the intensity, driven on by captain Ollie Moody. A patient passing build up by the backs suddenly created space for winger Munya Pasinawako whose pace and determination outfoxed the hapless defenders and he was able to ground between the posts. Hayden Kemp-Robertson took care of a straightforward conversion to make it 14-8.
The As resolutely withstood some late pressure from the away team, including two five metre penalties. The final whistle was greeted with relief from the touchline and roars from the boys on the pitch. This was an important result. The boys deserve credit for the fact that it was hard-fought and showed that they can perform grittily as a unit and work hard for each other.
Hertford Match Report – 29/9
Hertford 27 – OA’s 5
Hertford Rugby Football Club isn’t actually in Hertford; it’s on the outskirts of Ware, which must be one of the most annoying places to live in the entire country because every time you tell someone that you live there they make an excruciatingly corny joke triggered by the phonic similarity between the name of the town (population 18,000) and the adverb ‘where’. You then have to smile wanly, pretending that they are the most sidesplittingly original comedian since Dick Emery.
Hertford Rugby Football Club is situated down Hoe Lane (noted without comment) approximately 17 miles from the historic Roman town of St Albans. The clubhouse is of negligible architectural interest and the lock on the toilet cubicle inside the Gents to the left of the main bar is broken. The young ladies behind the kitchen hatch, however, are very pleasant and serve a generous bacon buttie for half the price of the ones cooked up by the burly blokes in the burger van newly ensconced in the Woolams car park.
Today’s 32-minute drive to Hertford Rugby Football Club from the historic Roman town of St Albans was actually quite pleasant, courtesy of some hospitable autumn sunshine and some early glints of gold in the leaves. There seemed to be some kind of police incident on a stretch of the A414 dual carriageway close to the grounds of the magnificently Jacobean Hatfield House (circa 1611) but fortunately it only seemed to affect the traffic heading in a westerly direction and had been resolved by midday.
The OAs U14s A Team played their first Herts & Middlesex Division One league game of the season and came off second best 27-5* to a Hertford team who played a simple, effective supporting game. The bright spot was that the OAs boys scrubbed up very nicely afterwards, looking smart while tucking into pasta in their white school shirts and official club ties.
* Heaney, 6 mins. Interception; long run.
Coach’s Verdict – Hertford 🙁 🙁 played a good game and taught us how to keep continuity by support and passing. We spoke before the game on areas to improve upon (straighter running, set piece and rucking) and after a bright start didn’t quite hit our targets thereafter. Lots to work on over the next few sessions, primarily rucking and support work. On a positive the lads did not give up and their tackling was strong.
Old Ruts Match Report – 22/9
OAsU14 As 24 – 10 Old Ruts
Half Time: 12-0
The As edged a competitive first half, running in two tries. The first came from full-back Lewis Butterworth who snuck into the corner to finish off a cross-field move that included a strong run from centre Stephen Heaney, a half break by William Thomson and then the wide ball to Lewis Butterworth.
The second try came in the last play off the half: Fraser Leggett crashed his way through from a scrum and ran unimpeded from inside his own half. Winger Ashley Willing converted to make it 12-0.
The As dominated the first fifteen minutes of the second half and were rewarded with tries from Sam Caro and Stephen Heaney. The first came from a penalty that developed from a maul, with Carro doggedly forcing the ball over the line.
Heaney’s try was a classic as Fraser Leggett put in another bone crunching tackle and the ball spilled from the resulting hit into Heaney’s hands who was also apply pressure in defence. Full back Hayden K-R converted, to make it 24-0.
The As were guilty of taking their foot off the gas in the last ten minutes and conceded two unanswered tries – the first of which came from a turnover in the scrum. The second could have been prevented but a couple of tackles were missed in the build-up which was the only tackles they missed all day.
Coach’s Verdict / 80% superb, 20% foot off the gas.
Line speed in defence good and tackling improved (more work to do though). Things to work on: improved communication; better defensive coordination and more work required in the scrum and lineout as well as quicker rucking.
Amersham & Chiltern 10’s Festival Report – 21/4
Spring finally seemed to have arrived when the OA’s U13 tuned up in Amersham for the Amersham & Chiltern 10’s tournament. After a season of league rugby the boys seemed to be looking forward to playing festival rugby again.
The fixture schedule meant we were the last team to play in the festival and after 40mins of watching all the other teams play OA’s finally took to the field…
Any pre match nerves were stopped immediately, Stephen catching the ball from the kick-off and jinking his way through the A&C team to put the ball under the posts. Good start! Soon after the kick off Munya received the ball in our half and set off around the outside of the A&C defence, there was no stopping him, 12-0. A&C to their credit fought back and pushed OAs deep into their own half. The OA’s defence stood firm and then found a way to release Stephen again, try no3. There was still time for Lewis to cross the try line before half time. OAs led 24-0. In the 2nd half OA’s dominated the game and tries followed for Toby, Matt and a 2nd for Munya, Scott finished the scoring on the final whistle. Final score 52-0 to OA’s, 8 tries scored.
OA’s v Windsor
Windsor had already played and beaten the other 2 teams in our group and looked a competitive team. They had some big forwards and some fast backs. They started strongly and playing good rugby to take an early lead. Slowly OA’s worked their way into the game and went through some good phases in the forwards to drive the ball deep into the Windsor 22, after another ruck the ball was popped out to Toby who rumbled over the try line. OA’s missed the conversion so were behind 7-5 but had started to control the game. OA’s got the ball out to Stephen again, who was having a great tournament, and he managed to get over the Windsor try line to put OA’s 12-7 in front at half time. As expected Windsor came back strongly in the 2nd half but the defence kept firm and OA’s didn’t really look like conceding. OA’s then got some time with the ball and worked it out well to Munya, who did the rest to score our 3rd try of the game. Final score 17-7 to OA’s, 3 tries scored.
OA’s v Pays du Fournais 2
Time for OA’s to play a French touring side from the Toulon region of France, with a nice taste in tour shirts! OA’s 1st half performance was probably the sloppiest half they played all day, lots of dropped passes and the team seemed to lack a bit of the intensity that they had shown in previous games. Finally though after much possession Will scored the first try just before half time, this seemed to open the flood gates and Kit then scored right on half time. OA’s led 12-0. In the 2nd half the OA’s of previous games returned and ran in 6 tries, 4 for Lewis, another for Stephen and one for Matt. OA’s won 44-0, with 8 tries scored. OA’s had won their group and were to play Pays du Fournais 1 in the semi final.
Semi Final – OA’s v Pays du Fournais 1
No sloppiness in this game, OA’s started the game putting great pressure on French team, Sean leading the line in defence with his great pressure tackling knocking the French boys backwards. From this solid defence the OA’s attack was soon released, Lewis, Munya and Sam C running in tries before half time. OA’s led 17-0. In the 2nd half there were further tries scored, Sean running in his 1st of the tournament followed by another 2 for Lewis and then probably our try of the day, when Lewis took the whole French defence with him on a very loud dummy run allowing Stephen to run the ball over the line unopposed. OA’s won 39-0, scoring 7 tries. Now for the hosts Amersham and Chiltern in the final…
Final – OA’s v Amersham & Chiltern 1
Going into the final both teams were unbeaten and both playing some good rugby, the boys had now played 3 games in a row with very little break but were looking forward to the final. OA’s started the game strongly again, with Sean again leading the pressure defence from the kick off. From a scrum on the A&C 22, Kit took the ball on the blind side, dummied to the wing and ran the ball over the try line. Being the good side that they are A&C came back at OA’s but defence was holding firm. Then OA’s managed to get the ball to Muyna, in some space in his own half, using his pace he ran outside the A&C defence, finally scoring under the posts. However in the try scoring run Munya hurt his hamstring and had to leave the pitch. A&C came back at OA’s again and they managed to break our line to score just on the stroke of half time. OA’s led 12-7 at half time. In the 2nd half A&C continued with their pressure on the OA’s defence. However the team held firm and with Will using his clever chips over the top of the defence as he had done all day OA’s pushed A&C back. Then our pressure tackling, lead by Stephen forced 2 successive errors by A&C and allowed Stephen to capitalise with 2 quick tries. OA’s led 26-7. But A&C were not finished and they came straight back with 2 good tries of their own. 26-19 to OA’s. A nervy last minute or so saw OA’s defence stand firm. The final whistle blew, the OA’s team and supporters celebrated a festival win. OA’s won 26-19, 7 tries scored.
A great days rugby, 5 games, 5 wins, 33 tries scored and some silverware to bring home to Woollams.
Lots of positives from the day but most importantly the great team spirit and camaraderie by playing a simple game where we minimised rucks and kept the ball alive, had crisp passing and created pace and chances for nearly 2/3rds of the team to score.
Cambridge Match Report – 30/3
OAs As 57 – 5 Cambridge
OAs made light work of Cambridge in this friendly fixture, romping to a 57-5 victory on yet another chilly day at Woollams.
The game marked the A team debut of forward Mahendra Sapuan-Leonard who put in a very solid performance.
Pacy winger Munya Pasinawako opened the scoring in the second minute, collecting the ball midway inside his own half and motoring uncontested along the side of the touchline. Fly half William Thomson converted, to make it 7-0.
The As soon doubled their lead. Matt Swift was the scorer, finishing off a move started by a determined run from Number 8 Sean Ahearne-Smith. Sam Carro was next to grab some glory, smashing his way through the ranks with an excellent solo run to score the first of two tries in a matter of minutes. His second try came courtesy of a dogged sprint by Tom Sav. (Converted by Thomson).
Big Toby Pearce made it 29-0, forcing his way over from a 5-metre scrum (converted). In the last minute of the half newcomer Ashley Willing used his blistering pace to good effect, collecting the ball on the half way line to run in a try between the posts. William Thomson converted, to send the home team into the break 38-0 ahead.
OAs took their foot off the gas at the start of the second half, allowing Cambridge to push further up the field. The away side eventually got their just desserts, scoring their only try of the game – courtesy of the magnanimous Stephen Heaney, who had been asked to swap sides after an injury to a Cambridge centre.
Ashley Willing soon restored things with his second try of the game. Toby Pearce won a line out, sparking a swift and fluent team move along the line, finished with aplomb by the winger. (Converted).
Four minutes later, Ashley bagged his hat trick – courtesy of a turbo-charged sprint. (Converted). Straight from the Cambridge kick-off Tom Sav caught the ball, put his head down and charged his way through the away side’s defence to earn OAs a 57-5 victory.
Saracens Match Report – 10/3
OAs U13s As 32 – 21 Saracens Amateurs (HT: 14-14)
The As avenged the recent league defeat against Saracens Amateurs, notching up six tries to win this absorbing encounter on a chilly morning at Woollams.
Debutant Ashley Willing – drafted into the squad due to the absence of its St Columba’s contingent – made an immediate impact, running home a try in the second minute after determined work from forwards Tom Sav and Sam Atkinson.
Credit to the St Albans boys, though: they stepped up a gear and dominated at the breakdown for the rest of the game, with Matt Swift, Eddie Greene and Tom Sherwood showing great commitment.
Speedy winger Munya Pasinawako sent the As back into the lead, finishing off a fine cross-field team move to place the ball in the left-hand corner. Despite dominating possession, the As fell behind to a try that straight from an interception, duly converted.
The home side continued to press and were rewarded in the last play of the half with a second try from the athletic Ashley, aided in the build up by a bustling run from centre Sam Carro.
The As completely bossed the second half. Munya made it 20-14 after a sublime dummy movement and overhead pass from fly-half Hayden Kemp-Robertson. Minutes later Hayden then bagged the team’s fifth try of the game with a gritty run through five players after spotting a gap when the As won a scrum.
Sam Carro scored the As’ sixth try with a typically robust and determined surge. Full back Jacob West converted to make the score 32-14.
In the last play of the game, Saracens claimed a consolation try, capitalizing on a favourable bounce that was inches away from sending impressive centre Stephen Heaney clear through at the other end of the field.
A very good performance today; definitely a case of playing 15-man rugby. This was an entertaining game to watch. The forwards really got stuck in and the backs were fluent and got the ball out wide, where we caused plenty of damage. We showed good continuity and put Saracens under constant pressure. Things to work on in our next game are decision-making and tacking the runners.
Welwyn Match Reports – 24/2
County Cup: Welwyn 73 – 12 OAs
The As were taught a harsh lesson in competitive rugby on a freezing cold day at Hobbs Lane, crashing to a heavy defeat. The boys simply didn’t have their game heads on today and found themselves three tries down after eight minutes.
Welwyn are a very well drilled side who are brutally efficient at getting the ball out wide and letting their strong-running wingers wreak havoc. They turned the conditions (a rock-hard pitch) to their advantage, refusing to let the game get bogged down in the middle. The As failed to adjust to the opposition’s tactics and found themselves frequently outnumbered on the flanks.
Ironically, the As out-rucked the home side in the centre of the park but failed to gain any traction. Too often they played into Welwyn’s hands, kicking the ball directly at the same backs who were causing the most damage.
The highpoints were consolation tries from Tom Sherwood and Sam Carro, the latter being arguably the best try of the game.
Coaches Verdict / We wish the team had played the whole game like they did in the last ten minutes, when we finally started to pressurize the opposition and managed to sneak two excellent tries. We didn’t bring our game to them today and we got some of the basics wrong. We should have worked at closing Welwyn down and stopping them getting the ball out wide. There were many missed tackles and some decision-making that could have been better from the team today. The ‘man of the match’ was the parents on the touchline, who showed great support and encouragement despite the result!
Now some alternate views from the Sidelines
OAs started the game all guns blazing but were undone by an early try from the Welwyn winger. A number of Welwyn tries followed in the same manner and they were soon out of sight. However, this supporter at least felt that our players managed to keep their heads up and tried to take the game to Welwyn. Although it must have been a very frustrating game for the OAs boys, they kept plugging away on a hard pitch in the cold. There was no petulance (or tears!) from any of the team. The boys kept going, even through injury, and competed until the last whistle, as was shown by their second try right at the end of the match. This Welwyn team is a very slick unit and was clearly a worthy winner today. Well done to our team for keeping going, and for taking the defeat with real dignity (and a sausage baguette!). It’s a sporting cliche, but there were positives to be taken from the OAs performance today…heads up boys! – Anon
It was a freezing morning as us girls got together to support our boys in Welwyn. The trip with Louise was eventful as you can imagine (with Butters in the car recovering from Twickenham!) I sat in the back with my hands over Charlotte’s ears! The game started slowly with the pitch very hard. No one wanted to hit the ground and as the players ran by they sounded like tap dancers!
After commenting on how lucky we are with our “fantastic” coaches Welwyn had scored a hat trick of tries to start the game. Second half saw some better tackling and a score finally by Tom Sherwood! The cheer was huge from our side and a few victory dances were tried by the wannabe cheerleaders (Ian included – his ankle isn’t that bad!)
The tension was palpable and excitement grew as Sam Carro scored the second try set up by Toby (that’s my boy) Pearce! As the game ended we reflected over a freezing cold glass of merlot (much better wine at OA’s), discussed what everyone was having for dinner and arranged to meet for training next week! – Anon (ish)
It was generally acknowledged that Butters seemed to be coping well with the lack of sleep and alcohol intake from the England game yesterday and this in no way affected his touch judging skills. There was talk about the weather and the how cold it was …which body parts were colder than others and that none of us would like to be out on a rugby pitch this morning.
The Ladies lunch was another hot topic much discussed and bragged about …some of the Under 13 ladies apparently stayed on much longer than lunch ….some of these mothers did not return home until midnight and had been seen dancing at the club in an un-motherly fashion later on that evening….outrageous !! – Anon
Start of the game, we all walked to the touch line. A good crowd by all means. Everyone was wrapped up against the cold, except for the lads playing rugby. It always amuses me that a group of lads all the same age can vary so much in size. The game started off in good fashion, but sadly it was not long before Welwyn ran away with the score in the first half by scoring many tries. As supporters we tried to give encouragement by shouting on our lads whenever they had the ball. We were so happy in the second half when OA’s managed to score two tries. At one stage the play was right near the line and no 8 from OA’s was weaving in and out charging forward, much to the delight of our crowd. Final whistle! All in the club house to get warm!!!! We thought the boys kept going right to the end, well done!!! – Anon
Finchley Match Report – 17/2
Friendly: OAs U13s As 48 – 7 Finchley As (HT: 10-7)
A depleted As side romped to a comprehensive victory over their north London opponents in the sunshine at Woollams. The first half was a relatively tight affair, with OAs notching up two tries to Finchley’s one. However, they ran rampant after the break, scoring six unanswered tries to win 48-7.
As this was a friendly, the As were briefed to try some new moves and generally express themselves. The game got off to a scrappy start though, with the boys committing a series of avoidable penalties and misplaced passes that slowed any momentum. It took 15 minutes to build a meaningful attack, with winger Lewis Butterworth finishing off a strong run from impressive B-team loanee Joe Hall to open the scoring. Another B-team stand-in, Reece O’Neill came on shortly afterwards as a blood substitute for scrum half Scott Tomlins who has taken a knock to the nose.
The visitors went ahead seven minutes later, with a nice move out wide from a scrum. Based on possession levels, it was a deserved try, duly converted. This seemed to provoke the As into upping the intensity, which paid off immediately: Joe Hall grounding the ball after a robust, direct run by number 8 Sean Ahearne-Smith
The As completely dominated the second half, showing superior support play and better fitness levels. Loose-head Oliver Moody and hooker Eddie Greene typified the positive spirit. Tight head prop Kai Bloxham scored his team’s third try in a move that started with a confident catch deep inside his own half by Lewis Butterworth. Outside centre Joe Hall soon made it 20-7, accepting an expertly timed pass from captain/fly half Hayden Kemp-Robertson after a jinxing run from Kit Shepard down the left wing and good hands from Sam Wilbraham: a superb team try, this one. Full back Jacob West converted to make it 22-7.
Finchley made life very difficult for themselves straight from the restart. They failed to close down their own kick, which fell straight into the arms of Joe Hall who was then allowed to run practically unchallenged straight down the line and under the posts to bag his hat trick. Jacob converted: 29-7.
The away team came close to scoring two minutes later, but were thwarted on the line with some excellent defence from Tom Sherwood, Mathhew Swift and Toby Pearce. The home team’s forwards were showing great concentration and support, with Tom Sav looking particularly impressive today.
The As cranked through the gears, with Lewis Butterworth scoring his second try from a turnover ball (converted) and Jacob West adding another in the corner after some good hands in the build-up. By now the score was 41-7, but the home team still had plenty of gas in the tank and were making Finchley look very much a second division side. (The north Londoners are currently 4th in the Herts & Middlesex Div. 2 table after wins against Cheshunt, Ealing and Hitchin)
Openside flanker Tom Sav secured the try his performance deserved with an unstoppable run straight from an Eddie Greene line out. Jacob converted for the fourth time to make the final score 48-7.
A pleasing performance, despite some of the sloppiness in the first half!
The positives today: Our support play was very good – a point noted by the Finchley coach at the end, who complimented our teamwork and energy levels. We put some flowing rugby together in the second half and our backs managed to test out some new moves, which was very worthwhile.
Things to work on for the cup game against Welwyn next week: Tackling! Better, harder faster – especially in loose play. Hit the man! Move the legs! (The team scored themselves 5/10 for their tackling today). Communication! Especially on the blind side. We need to call more for
Saracens Match Report – 3/2
OAs U13s As 17 – 19 Saracens Amateurs (HT: 12-7)
Impetuosity and handling errors at crucial moments ultimately cost the OAs a win in this enthralling encounter against Saracens Amateurs. The home team was two minutes from victory after dominating possession in the second half but ended up paying the price for failing to convert territorial advantage into points.
Saracens have fashioned a very committed, well-drilled team with pace on the wings and strength in the middle. They edged the rucks and mauls in the opening exchanges, but OAs gradually started to impose themselves on the game.
Number Eight Sean Ahearne-Smith sent the As into the lead after nine minutes from a penalty – an attack sparked by a clever rip from Tom Sherwood. Fly-half William Thomson duly converted, to make it 7-0. The away team came back at the As but couldn’t find a way through. With brute force not working, they tried a hopeful kick over the top, but winger Munya Pasinawako was on hand to snatch the ball to safety.
The As doubled their lead shortly afterwards; Munya surged past the gain line and an expertly timed pass from Hayden Kemp-Robertson set Sam Carro free. (A move worked on during Tuesday’s training session, apparently!)
Frustratingly, the As conceded a try in the last play of the first half, allowing a runner to sneak through a gap in the defensive line. It was to prove costly.
Saracens had their tails up in the second half and drew level after two minutes, from a penalty.
Credit to the As though, they ran straight back at the opposition, with Sam Carro doing his formidable rhino impression. An excellent run by his fellow centre Stephen Heaney gained some vital ground. From the resultant penalty, William Thomson forced his way through the pack to ground the ball and send the home team 17-12 to the good.
The As continued to boss the play, camping inside the Saracens half. They were guilty of white line fever at times though, with the forwards ignoring their coach’s half-time instructions. They wasted two penalties in quick succession, heading into traffic when there were much better options waiting out wide. This was turning into a tense and physical game to watch! Encouragingly, the St Albans boys were winning the majority of scrums and really battling hard, with the likes of Sam Atkinson, Jack Norman and Ollie Moody putting in a hard shift.
The As came agonizingly close to increasing their lead when Sam Carro barged over the line only to knock-on under pressure when grounding the ball. The referee had to seek counsel from his linesman before declaring it a no-try.
But…with such a slender lead there was always the danger that Saracens would claw themselves back into the frame. After soaking up heavy OAs pressure, they broke down the wing and into the danger zone. Their full-back managed to ground the ball over the line, but was penalized for a double movement.
However, with 90 seconds left on the clock the As fluffed their lines. Under pressure behind their own 5-metre mark they tried to play their way out of trouble even though an agricultural kick into touch would probably been the best option. An unfortunate knock-on handed Saracens the advantage and their Number 8 managed to bundle himself over the line. Despite the efforts of three OAs defenders, he managed to get enough of a hand on the ball for the ref to declare a try, close to the posts. A simple conversion handed the lead to the Southgate club.
The As had a chance to snatch it in the last play, but a fumble at the back of the scrum meant that the momentum was lost.
The boys were understandably frustrated at the end, but they learned a valuable lesson today. Rugby is a hard game that requires non-stop intensity. If you take your foot off the gas, you get punished – which is what happened at the end of the first half where a lapse in concentration brought Saracens back into the game.
We needed to ‘control the controllables’ but we let ourselves down with some poor handling at vital moments and some rash decision-making. Saracens were very good at closing us down and committing players to the rucks. This often left space out wide but too often our forwards tried to play the Incredible Hulk during penalty moves instead of getting quick ball along the line to exploit spaces near the wing.
We need to work at turning pressure into points, especially against tough opposition like today.
On a positive note, the Saracens coach congratulated us on our performance and said we didn’t deserve to lose. We probably played the better rugby over the entire 50 minutes and showed some great commitment. There was plenty to be proud of today. When you boil today’s game down, we were one safe catch away from victory in the end. Fine margins!
At least we picked up a consolation point for restricting Saracens to a three-point winning margin.
Old Dunstablians Match Report – 13/1
OAs 34 – 10 Dunstablians (HT: 17-0)
Three tries in each half, including a hat-trick from debutant Sean Ahearne-Smith, earned the OAs Under 13s A-Team a dogged 34-10 victory over Dunstablians on a bitterly cold day at Woollams. The opposition boasted a formidably-sized pack who worked hard to restrict OAs’ movements, but the home side showed enough concentration and commitment to earn their third bonus point in a row.
Inside centre Sam Carro opened the scoring with a robust surge between the posts (converted by full-back Jacob West) before Ahearne-Smith bagged two tries, including an audacious kick-and-receive in the last play of the half.
The As got off to a flying start after the break, with Matthew Swift finishing off a strong run by flanker Tom Savrimoothoo to make it 22-0. Dunstable then took advantage of their considerable weight advantage to pull two tries back from two five-metre penalties. Any hopes of a comeback were soon dispelled though when OAs scrum-half Scott Tomlins snuck through a gap around the scrum to make the score 27-10. Ahearne-Smith then added his third and the team’s sixth try in the penultimate minute, aided in the build-up by a mazy run by outside centre Stephen Heaney.
This victory – their third league win on the trot – sent the St Albans team up to 3rd place in the table.
Not our best performance of the season, but we deserved to win. Dunstablians made it difficult for us at the rucks with their big lads driving through and we needed to be supporting quicker, lower and more dynamic.
Defensively we came up quick and forced OD’s to make errors which was good and we showed lots of hustle and bustle around the gainline. However, our missed tackle count was too high.
As a team we need to develop more continuity and this requires better support play. We improved as the game progressed (albeit our 10 mins of not tackling legs at penalties!) and our last try demonstrated great support work and continuity so we know the team is capable of doing it.
To win our third bonus point in a row is a great achievement, as is the fact that. today’s result means we will definitely be playing in Division 1 again next year. It’s now up to the team where they want to finish in the League……….
Harpenden Match Report – 09/12
Harpenden 0 – 20 Old Albanians (HT: 5-0 to OAs)
Old Albanians Under 13s claimed this season’s bragging rights with a deserved 20-0 victory in a keenly contested derby against Harpenden at Redbourn Lane. The home side dominated possession in the opening ten minutes but couldn’t find a way through. Sturdy defence from the OAs pack and a massive kick from fly-half Hayden Kemp-Robertson switched the action to the other end of the pitch, where the St Albans team camped for the remainder of the half. The pressure eventually paid off when flanker Tom Savrimoothoo forced his way over the line from a penalty move in the 23rd minute.
Despite facing a blustery wind in the second half, OAs ran in three more tries – a brace from their athletic winger Munya Pasinawako and a superb last-minute effort from inside centre Sam Carro, earning the St Albans side a valuable bonus point.
Final score 20-0 to OAs.
Tring Match Report – 25/11
OAs U13s 33 – 27 Tring
Old Albanians U13s grabbed their first league victory of the season with a hard-fought 33-27 win against a determined Tring team on a blustery day at Woollams.
The As got off to a disastrous start, conceding a try in the second minute but they hauled themselves back into the game to lead 19-12 at half-time thanks to three excellent tries from the pacy debutante, Munya Pasinawako who had stepped up from the B team to replace Alex Spilling.
The winger’s opening try came from nifty opportunism at a penalty and the second was a result of a gritty 20-metre run by inside centre Sam Carro. The third was a joy to watch: simply an astounding display of pace and handing-off skills as he received a quick ball from scrum half Kit Shepard from a penalty on the OAs defensive line and raced the full length of the pitch to score.
An OAs victory looked far from certain, as the away team’s fly half burst through from behind a scrum to score after 90 seconds. He gained ground courtesy of three expertly timed hand-offs, but the As coaches were disappointed with their side’s lack of commitment in the tackle.
Gradually the St Albans boys got into the game. Sam Atkinson earned his ‘Rhino’ reputation with a pile-driver of a tackle to snuff out a Tring salvo and captain Hayden Kemp-Robertson led by example with a similar hit in the next attack.
The home team scored a try after five minutes, with Munya Pasinawako finishing off a textbook move down the line from a 15m penalty. Minutes later the As took the lead after Tring failed to take advantage of two unmarked players screaming for the ball on the wing. Inside centre Sam Carro caught a high punt and ran like a bulldozer though the Tring ranks, releasing Pasinawako at just the right time. The winger held off two challenges to score between the posts. Full back Jacob west duly converted to make it 12-7.
William Thomson came close to scoring, but couldn’t quite find enough pace to capitalize on his crafty grubber. The ball was smothered by a Tring centre on the line.
The gusty wind was making life difficult for both sides, especially at line outs and kick-offs. However, there were no excuses for some sloppy defensive mistakes from OAs, who were penalized by the referee for repetitive coming in from the sides and hands in the ruck. This handed the momentum to Tring, and it was no surprise when they pulled one back courtesy of an interception. Fortunately for the As, a relatively simple conversion came back off the side of the post, keeping the score at 12-12.
Tring continued to pile on the pressure. However, after the As had conceded two penalties in succession, some resolute defence from Tom Sav, Eddie Greene and Nicholas Buxton forced an error from the away team. Rather ambitiously, Kit Shepard took a quick tap penalty on the As line and handed the ball to Pasinawako. The scrum half’s confidence was rewarded with a sublime turn of pace from the winger who ran uncontested down the entire flank of the pitch. Jacob West duly converted to send the home team into the break 19-12 to the good.
The coaches’ half-time team talk focused on the need for the OA boys to be tighter in their formations, to hit Tring harder at penalties and to put more phases together.
The second half was a tense affair. Tring pulled a try back after an accidental offside handed them a giftwrapped penalty 10 metres from the line. The wind once again came to OAs aid, as a missed conversion kept the score at 19-17 in their favour. A knock-on from Tring was exploited by outside centre Stephen Heaney, who cleverly released Pasinawako to score his fourth try of the morning and earning the As their first bonus points of the season. Jacob West kicked an easy conversion right in front of the posts to make it 26-17.
Tring refused to bow down though and came flying back at the home team. They scored their fourth try of the game from yet another penalty. (Something to work on in training on Tuesday night!) Their kicker needed to borrow Jacob’s boots, however, as he missed again to keep the score at 26-22.
The away team sniffed blood in their next attack, but a superb defensive kick from fly-half William Thomson and some strong tackling from newcomer Matthew Swift (promoted from the Bs) gained some vital respite for the As.
The St Albans boys increased their lead with four minutes to go. Jacob West started the move and Sam Carro finished it, bustling his way to the centre of the posts. A conversion meant the As were now 31-22 ahead.
Tring pulled a try back in the last play to gain some valuable points for themselves. The try itself was impressive, if disputed – a kick and rush – but the As backs were slow to close down and the audacious move should never have been allowed to happen.
A 33-27 victory was a superb achievement against a determined Tring side. In the end though, it was the accurate kicking of full-back Jacob West that made the difference, helping his team secure five valuable points and boosting their position in the Herts & Middlesex Division 1 table.
Coaches Verdict: A tough game in difficult conditions, but credit to the boys. They kept going and showed passion and soul, especially with their counter-rucking. They worked hard for each other and compensated for some sloppy errors by putting in some great tackles and decent attacking moves. Bravo to Munya for scoring four great tries and for making such an impact in his first game for the A team.
Amersham Match Report – 21/10
FT: Amersham 10 – 29 OAs
The As got back to winning ways with a comfortable 29-10 victory over Amersham & Chiltern on a damp day in leafy Buckinghamshire.
This was the first time that the two sides had ever faced each other. Chiltern is a big club, with impressive facilities, so theSt Albansteam and their supporters weren’t quite sure what to expect.
The opening exchanges were relatively even. OAs showed more ambition, but Chiltern were strong tacklers, well drilled in the ruck and quick to close down.
The As opened the scoring though. Flanker Alex Powdrell scooped the ball out of a ruck and carried it inside to winger Alex Spilling, whose run was blocked by a resolute tackle. Sam Carro – being tested as inside centre – got to the loose ball first, dipped his head and cut through the defence to score. Full back Jacob West converted to make it 7-0 to the visitors.
Scott Tomlins replaced an injured Alex Spilling.
Three minutes after going ahead, the As were pegged back. Chiltern won a turnover ball and took advantage of a gap on the OAs left. This was a sloppy try to concede, as it had echoes of last week at Welwyn, when the As were guilty of losing their shape by bunching in the middle. (‘Bees round a honeypot’ as their exasperated coach described it on the touchline!)
The home side failed to convert.
The try seemed to sting the As into action. Forwards Tom Savrimoothoo, Sam Wilbraham and Toby Pearce started to get in the thick of it. Hooker Eddie Greene delivered some excellent line out balls. TheSt Albansboys dominated the rest of the half, but struggled to get over the line – due to a combination of solid defending from the hosts and some poor hands at crucial moments.
Eventually their territorial dominance paid off. The As won a scrum on the ten metre line and Hayden Kemp-Robertson, playing as fly half today, drew in two opponents before releasing Scott Tomlins out wide for a simple run towards the line.
Half Time: 12-5 to OAs.
The second half began brightly. In the first minute a superb tackle from outside centre Stephen Heaney caused panic in the defence. A rushed ball was cannily intercepted by substitute centre William Thomson, who managed to haul himself over the line before any defenders could pounce. Score: 17-5.
Three minutes later Scott Tomlins grabbed his second try of the game, finishing off a forceful run from Stephen Heaney. Jacob West kicked well to convert, making the scoreline 24-5 to the visitors.
Welwyn Match Report – 14/10
It was a case of ‘sunny day but not so bright result’ at Welwyn on Sunday morning, as the OAs A Team crashed to a 34-14 defeat.
Based on the opening passages of play, the final score was quite a surprise. The As started confidently, showing determination in the ruck and speed in their forward play. The pack won the first two scrums and centres Sam Wilbraham and Stephen Heaney and winger Jacob West pulled off some timely tackles. Welwyn were being forced into errors. Toby Pearce, Sam Atkinson and Jack Norman were certainly making their presence felt.
Sadly though, the St Albans boys fell behind to a breakaway try, with Welwyn recycling the ball speedily at the breakdown. The As then had the wind knocked out of their sails when a muscular runner from the home side breached the defence two minutes later, evading a series of hapless tackles along the line to score.
The As conceded two further tries in the final moments of the first half, leaving a bruised trio of Eddie Greene, Stephen Heaney and Hayden Kemp-Robertson to seek help from Nurse Atkinson on the touchline.
A promising start had turned into a nightmare half, with the As being clinically punished for some weak tackling, poor kicking and insufficient support at the breakdowns.
A rousing team talk from coach Chris Pearce became a distant memory very quickly, as Welwyn scored from their first attack of the second half. The As were too slow to react to a tap penalty and fell 29-0 behind.
Soon it was 0-34, but to their credit the As refused to bow down. A tired pack (kudos must go to Nic Buxton and Tom Sav for their superb endeavours today) had been replenished by substitutes Ollie Moody and Kai Bloxham.
OAs finished the game on the ascendency, with prop Sam Carro scoring a deserved try, using his power and pace to smash his way through and ground the ball right between the posts. Jacob West duly converted.
Scoring seemed to boost the confidence of the As, and they went at Welwyn with renewed purpose and aggression. Their persistence paid off, with Kai Bloxham barging his way through a crowd from a penalty move in the last play. Kit Shephard duly converted, meaning the As actually ‘won’ the second half 14-12!
Coaches Verdict: Not the greatest result, but plenty to learn and build on. After the draw against Teddington we wanted to improve on three key areas: rucking, tackling and driving the ball forward. We achieved our target with the rucking and we did manage to push forward well at times, but overall our tackling just wasn’t effective enough today. We need to get closer and lower.
We fought hard, but in the final 15 minutes of the first half and the first 15 of the second we looked rusty at the basics.
On a positive note, we put in a good display at the lineouts and our scrummaging was tight.
Welwyn are not country champions for nothing. They are a strong and well-drilled team and for prolonged periods of the game we more than held our own. In fact, in the first and last ten minutes we were the more convincing team.
Teddington Match Report – 29/9 (from the Herts Advertiser)
Old Albanian U13s came from behind twice to secure a 12-12 draw with Middlesex county champions in a thrilling game against Teddington at Woollams on Sunday.
The St Albans boys fell behind in the seventh minute. Excellent defensive kicking from captain William Thomson and a lastditch tackle from full-back Hayden Kemp-Robertson kept the score down. OAs grew in confidence and managed to equalise in the last play of the half, with prop Samuel Carro forcing his way through a maze of opponents.
Teddington came back strongly in the second half thanks to some robust forward play and the pressure eventually paid off with a second try. OAs refused to be beaten though. They stepped up and created some fluent passing moves. Their endeavour was rewarded with an equalising try from scrum half Kit Shepard who burst through to ground the ball in the corner.
A Team Kit Rota 2012/13
|23-Sep||Hemel (h)||Toby Pearce|
|30-Sep||OAs v Teddington||Jack Norman|
|14-Oct||Welwyn v OAs||Sam Wilbraham|
|21-Oct||Amersham (a)||Nic Buxton|
|18-Nov||Amersham (h)||Hayden Kemp-Robertson|
|25-Nov||OAs v Tring||Kitt Shepherd|
|09-Dec||Harpenden v OAs||Lewis Butterworth|
|13-Jan||Dunstable v OAs||Eddie Green|
|03-Feb||OAs v Saracens||Sam Carro|
|24-Mar||OAs v Hertford||Stephen Heaney|
|21-Apr||Cup Finals||Toby Pearce|