Grizzlies & Gladiators combined team vs Welwyn 2XVs – 11th February 2017

Grizzlies & Gladiators combined team vs Welwyn 2XVs – 11th February 2017

A game of 2 halves that highlighted what lower league rugby is all about.

With a plethora of players at our disposal as the Gladiators game had been cancelled we had 26 ready to play. It was always going to be difficult to get continuity in a match where every 20 mins we rolled subs on and off and made wholesale changes. But at the end of the day that is what lower league rugby is all about, making sure that players that turn up all have a run out and feel that they have had a game and enjoyed their Saturday’s rugby. We also had a handful of Colts and ex Colts turning up which bodes well for the future of this club.

In a time when Brexit, immigration and division is at the forefront of the news it was great to see that Old Albanians is a multi cultural club that welcomes people whatever the race, creed or colour. In this game I am pretty sure there was a first for an OA’s RFC senior side with 3 Filipino’s on the pitch. Myself, Jeff and Jan Ninalga all in the starting line up.

Welwyn were missing 2 front row players so we of course lent them 2, Darren Ead and Gyan Rhodes leading the way and donning the oppo’s shirt for the first half.

On a freezing Saturday afternoon it was evident from the off Welwyn came to play and were dominant and put an early scores on us. It felt like we were on the back foot for most of the first half as Welwyn scored 4 unanswered converted tries and converted a penalty. We managed to convert our penalty opportunity as we went into half time 31-3. Although the score line suggested a rout it was simple mistakes, missed first tackles and lack of cohesion that lead to them scoring.

In the second half we came out with a bit more fire in our bellies as we were determined to get something out of this game. Heads did not drop and the pack started to regain some dominance allowing for clean ball to our backs. We switched front row players over with Deniz Gunbey and Simon McGuiness swapping places to allow Darren Ead to play along side John Courtney who has the honour of being is our oldest Grizzlie still playing! With the youngest player on the pitch at 18 and our Oldest at 63 it shows how great the game of rugby is that you can have that generational gap still playing together.

We started to claw back the score line with a try from our player of the season last season Matt Perkins who surprised us with a visit after his move up to Birmingham. Having Perky on the pitch lifted us and tries followed from Ally Ruffett who bullied his way over the white wash after a period of camping out on their try line. Followed by another from MoM Steve Sibley who had a commanding game at 8. Both tries were converted by Robin Bye. Welwyn’s only reply in that half was a penalty kick which left the score at 34-22 in Welwyns favour.

All in all a disappointing result, but a second half we can be proud of.

Kim Watson (Grizzlies Captain)