Harpenden 26pts – Old Albanian 41pts.
An appreciative crowd gathered on a warm Friday night at Redbourn Lane to watch this year’s contest for the Ali Mills Cup which was eventually claimed by the visitors after an entertaining, but hardly award winning, display.
Harpenden, now just a scant League behind OAs in the National rankings, will feel happy with their undoubted efforts and with their achievements on this warm night and can be satisfied not only with their four tries (bonus territory in a League match) but with the tactical and support work which brought these rewards. Tight scrummaging went well and the lineout was dependable while speed to the breakdown more than kept them in the fray as the work became tougher in the second period. Good speed was evident especially in midfield and in the back row.
Albanians likewise will be mostly satisfied at scrum time and with the work of the defence in general which, for long periods kept their opponents from a try line just inches away. Line speed, especially in the back three, gave the hosts pause for thought all night.
Had the OA lineout functioned properly, Harpenden would have had a tougher evening. However it seemed that Albanians found every available means of ruining promising possession and this is somethng the visitors will have to deal with urgently before the League competition starts in earnest.
A’s scored first from a smart miss move direct from a scrum thirty metres out. Not to be outdone Harps levelled with a vibrant take and drive from a lineout. Albanians defended their next (lost) lineout well but the hosts scored from the fumble at the second time of asking. A’s learned their lesson and clean lineout possession led to a spectacular driving charge from outside the home 22. Another handling error allowed the Harps centre a dash to the posts. An OA try from a lineout followed and the visitors took the lead they were not to lose as half time approached when maul followed lineout and the ball was spun smartly right.
Harpenden spent the first ten minutes of the second period deep in the visitors 22 but stern defence allowed no score in this period which probably proved pivotal to the result, particularly when a sudden loss of possession and a length of the field charge stretched the margin to ten points. Another massive lineout drive left the hosts with an impossible task as the final quarter wore on.
Never overawed Harpenden fought back and great support gave them a deserved fourth try far out on the right but the scoring finished with a delightful kick and gather at the other end of the field.
A pleasant evening and one which the respective coaches will find useful.
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