It should have been a joyous occasion for Old Albanian, the visitors to Dry Leas on a day perfect for the League restart after an eighteen month hiatus.
In the very first minute Dan Watt kicked the opening three points with a penalty after Hawks failed to secure the kickoff. Ten minutes later Alex Ricci, as part of a defence which was paramount throughout, made a confident interception and hastened to the line for Watt to add the extras.
The smaller Albanian pack used great technique to dominate the tight scrum and the lineout was practically faultless all afternoon. Yet Hawks found their feet and with their main strength the catch and drive from the lineout, used the ploy three minutes later to drive Tom Emery over, close enough to the sticks for the conversion to be no problem for fullback James Love. Watt kicked the second of his penalties as the half hour loomed.
OAs then lost two players to yellow cards in the space of a minute, one of which led to a penalty try bringing the hosts to within a point. Yet A’s held out in spectacular fashion and, before the break notched two sharp opportunities, one of which was another interception, this one by Mills and Watt converted the second, his own score. The second period opened with A’s restored to the full complement and keen to improve their strong situation.
Yet nothing troubled the scorer until the final minute when the visitors conceded their second penalty try, and a third yellow card, after the toughest period of Hawks pressure in the entire match. It proved too little too late and the six point margin sent Albanians into the clubhouse in high good humour.
Then all was rendered meaningless as Henley lock, David Hyde, complained of ill feeling in the changing room. It became apparent to medical staff his condition was serious enough and the Air Ambulance was summoned to take him to Hospital in Oxford with a suspected heart complaint. It is reported he was stabilised in the course of the next hour. Tragically he suffered a relapse late in the evening from which he did not recover.
John Inverdale has made the point that we all are a Rugby Family and his words can only be fully endorsed. As part of that family all at Old Albanian join in condolence with David’s wife, Katherine and all his family. If we can offer any support we will be delighted to do so.