On behalf of Old Albanian RFC I extend a very warm welcome to you all today in particular both the 1st XV (The TITANS) & the 2nd XV (The WARRIORS), Officials & Supporters of TAUNTON RFC to Woollams, the home of OA Rugby.
TAUNTON TITANS come to us currently sitting comfortably in third position in the League having won five of their seven encounters to date this season. When the TITANS last visited us three years ago, on 21 November 2015, those of us who were here watched a nine-try thriller with OAs taking the honours in the game 35-24. In the return game at Hyde Park on 19 March 2016 OAs just shaded the encounter 26-21. With OAs grabbing a defeat from the jaws of victory last week, it’s going to be another nail-biter for the Woollams’ faithful ! Let’s hope this afternoon’s game is another exciting meeting of our two 1st XV’s and that it’s played in the best possible rugby spirit, free from any serious injury & a greatly-needed win for OAs!
In addition to welcoming TAUNTON TITANS & their entourage this afternoon, I also warmly welcome many of our Sponsors and Benefactors to our SPONSORS’ Lunch, without whose generous support we could not run this Club. We are also delighted to welcome a number of our Vice Presidents, Supporters, Friends & Guests as well as some of our injured Players along with a number of our WAGS who are being entertained to a buffet in the 948 Room. Great to have you all here. Huge thanks go to our Main Sponsor, IHS Markit, who are also sponsoring today’s Match & Match Ball.
We have a further two home games here this afternoon, with our ROMANS, generously sponsored by Peter Blake-Turner, locking horns with The WARIORS from TAUNTON in a ZOO SHIELD League Division 2 game & our GLADIATORS taking on the 2nd XV from BIGGLESWADE in a Herts Middx Merit Table League 3 game. Our GRIZZLIES, generously sponsored by Peter Buttle of Buttle plc, are away playing against the 1st XV of local Hertfordshire rivals, CHESS VALLEY, in the newly formed Herts Middx Merit Table League 4 SW.
Our SAINTS, who currently sit third, one point off the top, in the Championship South East 2 League, have a rest weekend.
Our U18s are at home tomorrow taking on OLNEY Colts in the first round of the National Colts Cup, kicking off @ 1:00pm.
Also, here at Woollams, tomorrow from 10:00am, sees our U13s & U14s take on Teams from Fullerians, Hitchin & Verulamians along with many of our other 900+ Minis & Juniors playing & training. Do come back tomorrow & watch & support, you won’t be disappointed.
I wish you all a most enjoyable experience here at Woollams, the home of OA Rugby.
Richard Milnes, President
Head Coach's Preview
We welcome Taunton to Woollams on Saturday with both sides keen to get back to winning ways after narrow losses last week.
Our trip to Dings last weekend was a mixed affair with pleasing aspects of our performance enabling us to score 3 well worked tries when down to 14 men, but the overwhelming feeling of disappointment to lose the game late on by a single point was a bitter pill to swallow.
We are hoping the weather may be kind to us this weekend and allow both teams to play a more open and expansive brand of rugby and we will have to have a top defensive display to nullify the ball carrying threats Taunton will present across the park.
Unfortunately we are forced into a number of changes with injuries and unavailabilities presenting opportunities for a few players who have been training and playing well with the Romans and we are confident they will put in strong performance when given the opportunity this week
Our pre-match lunch welcomes our sponsors to the club and we would like to express our sincere thanks as a playing group for the support and opportunities they provide to the senior squad.
Gavin Hogg, Head Coach
A cynic might echo Abraham Lincoln and say Albanians again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and there would be some truth in that! But the last ten minutes of this nervous contest, in which the hosts scored two deserved tries to gain a one point victory, did not contain the root of the OA troubles. All had gone pear-shaped long before that.
The point has been laboured for years that at this level of rugby, and indeed at any level nowadays, precision is a requirement, nay it is a given! If mistakes are made, be they tactical or operational, advantages are handed to the opponent. Dings endured the OA purple patch immediately after half time when the visitors scored three scintillating tries, one converted, which dragged this match out of its torpor. Leading 8-17 with half an hour still to play and the large crowd largely silenced, OAs returned to careless ways. As in the Tonbridge Juddian encounter, a last gasp lineout to take the spoils failed to deliver.
A serious Motorway accident had delayed A’s arrival by two hours and the kickoff by one. Three minutes in Dan Watt attempted his first penalty from fully 65 metres. The strength of the wind meant his kick only just missed. Five minutes later Ben Bolster coaxed his penalty over for the opening points.
Then Alex Brown was red-carded for illegal use of the boot after his side had been awarded a penalty advantage. A man down for over an hour it was thereafter always going to be hard going.
Still Albanians had the better of the possession but couldn’t find the gap. Another long range Watt penalty fell just under the bar before the second and equally major event of this first period. Watt lined up his third penalty attempt 20 metres out and in front of the posts. To his dismay the ball came back off the upright and was shunted left by the Dings defence, which then rapidly became attack. Jake Holcombe had the legs to dive over just before the break.
What was possible was displayed in the third quarter when A’s finally found their true form. The forwards drove fast and deep and sped the ball to Ned Warne far out on the left. Watt’s conversion narrowly missed but Lloyd Anderson took charge from the restart. He released Charly Watson who crossed unchallenged from fifty metres.
Visiting forwards rampaged upfield whilst a Dings lock took a ten minute enforced rest and Chris West charged over from the second of two five metre scrums, Morgan Thompson converting and with a nine point lead and their tails up, very few in the crowd gambled on a home win. Holcombe backed himself and had no problem crossing from a lineout drive.
Then Hooker Will Capon threw the lineout ball low to the front (the third time he’d tried the ploy!) and Tom Knight proved unstoppable. As previously mentioned, OAs could find no way back.
It had been a long, difficult day and there were extenuating circumstances. Also it was not all doom and gloom: the pack did well in the tight and, generally, around the park. The first fifteen minutes of the second half showed the heights to which Gavin Hogg’s side can aspire. But all has to be attended with consistency or brilliance will count for naught.
Brian Quinn, Press & Publicity
Richard Milnes & Rory Davis
President & Chairman
Something a little different for #KnowYourOAs today... following their re-election at the AGM, please meet our President Richard Milnes and Club Chair, Rory Davis.
On behalf of everyone involved in the club, we'd like to thank all those who've stepped down for their hard work and wish Richard, Rory and their team all the best for the coming season!
OAs through history
We introduced #ThrowbackThursday on Social Media in the last few weeks and decided we'd share it in our weekly programmes.
This week's photo comes from the 1950s and features a number of faces people may be familiar with, including the renowned "Bunny" Ellis.