Rugby Result: Old Albanian 10 Rosslyn Park 19

Park win away but left to rue missed bonus point

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Another away win for Park, against an Old Albanian side whose skill and organisation belied their lowly League position. However, it was far from a vintage performance and they may regret being unable to press on and get a fourth try for that vital bonus point.

Things started well with Park looking to have the better of the play, but meeting a determined well-organised defence. That changed on 5 minutes when OAs turned over possession in the tackle, hoisted the ball to the right and set up a quick move that caught the visiting defence napping. Flanker Billy Johnson crossed the line and fly half Richard Gregg converted for 7-0.

Park played the more cultured rugby in their build up, but their own errors and some fine midfield defending kept prevented them capitalising on good approach work. Some accurate kicking out of defence by the home side kept sending Park back to try again.

A super attack through several hands saw Park breach the 22 and earn a penalty. A quick tap came to nothing when they knocked on. A good run through by Nev Edwards brought another penalty, kicked to the corner. Richard Boyle comfortably took the lineout catch, but some great defending kept the visitors out.

A long kick out of defence drew a handling error from Park, deep in their own territory, setting up a race for the loose ball and a really concerted home attack. Park defended well, but it underlined how dangerous the home side could be.

A promising move through the middle by centre Paul Mackey and flanker Harry Broadbent looked promising until Park were penalised. A similar attack inspired by winger Kiba Richards and Edwards came to nothing with a knock-on. A good run out of defence by winger Joe Ajuwa led to a Park penalty, fairly central on the OA 10 metre line but scrum half Alex Davies’ kick went just wide of the posts.

Just as it seemed as if nothing was going to work, almost on half-time Park’s scrum kippered their opponents to win a penalty, which was hoofed to touch close to the OA line. A good line-out saw Park drive forward. OA made an immense effort to hold them out, but a quick pass out wide to Richards saw him plunge over. Davies nailed a difficult conversion for 7-7 at the break.

Park Coach Alex Codling did not look the happiest man in St Albans as he headed into the dressing room. Whatever he said, Park looked a different prospect at the start of the second half.

A good break by replacement scrum half Luke Carter took Park to the 22, but again a handling error intervened. This time Park murdered the OA scrum to win a penalty. Fly-half Tom Whelan chipped the ball into the corner and the pack exerted their power to drive over, prop Alex McKenzie the one holding the ball. The almost impossible conversion was narrowly missed but Park had a 12-7 lead on 44 minutes.

Park were soon back in possession and what, if you were a Park supporter, looked a good ‘scissors’ movement between the centres Ireland and Mackey was to the referee ‘crossing’, and it’s his view that matters. OA had a penalty on the Park 10 metres and Gregg nailed it to reduce the arrears to 12-10 on 45 minutes.

It took Park only 7 minutes to get back on the scoreboard, with a line-out move straight off the training pitch. The throw was caught by Broadbent and a quick pass saw Mackey steam through the middle to go over next to the posts. Whelan converted for 19-10.

As Park tried to press on for the bonus point an attacking line-out looked promising, but was ruled ‘not straight’.

OA looked mighty dangerous when they hoisted the ball into the Park 22, slinging Park back onto defence. Broadbent earned a yellow card for a professional foul, but somehow Park managed to drive their opponents back at the scrum and eventually gained a penalty to clear.

Despite being short-handed, Park forced a penalty on the OA 10 metre line and Whelan spurned the 3 points to go for the fourth try, but from the lineout Park were again pinged for ‘crossing’.

A scrum on the OA 22 saw the home pack again comprehensively beaten, and home prop Steve Neville was sent to the bin thus evening up the numbers. The ball was hammered to touch for a throw but was then spilled forwards.

Park huffed and puffed as time ran out but the OA house refused to blow down. For Park it was a point dropped, but nevertheless to win away when playing below your best never a bad result. A point that was reinforced when the result came through while the players were in their post-match huddle that lowly Cinderford had beaten the league-leaders, Ealing. Park are still far from out of the title race.

Park: Edwards; Richards, Ireland, Mackey, Ajuwa; Whelan; Davies; Lundberg, Bellamy, MacKenzie; Treadwell, Boyle; Shires, Broadbent, McFarlane,
Subs: Liffchak, Woolstencroft, Inglis, Carter, Broughton.

Park scorers: Richards (T), MacKenzie (T), Mackey (T), Davies (C), Whelan (C).

January 20, 2015