The first tournament of the season for the U9s was at Bedford Junior Blues and OAs dispatched two mixed teams from the Orange and Blue training squads.
Team Blue (under the guise of Old Albanian B) was drawn in Pool A and Team Orange (as Old Albanian A) in Pool B. Both pools included opposition ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams.
OA Team A
Team A opened with a 2-5 loss against Old Northamptonians, a well drilled outfit who eventually topped the group undefeated. From 3-0 down, a try in each half from Church and Flanagan started the recovery, but too little too late. ON’s continued to dominate and ran out deserving winners.
Second up, Team A faced off against our old rivals Hemel ‘B’. Team A having now woken up to the fact that this was competition rugby, produced a sterling 1st half performance with tries from Flanagan (3) and Clarke (1). Thanks to a dogged defense, OAs led 4-0 at the break. The second half saw a resurgent Hemel up the pace. Three quick second half tries cut the gap to one and with the red mist descending OA’s flung themselves into every tackle. Hemel upped the pace, but OA’s ran out eventual winners 4-3.
Games three could only be described as the Battle of Bedford. A shaky start by OA’s resulted in the ball being coughed up several times. Opponents Bedford ‘A’ produced a series of determined attacks, but could not break the line. Ferocious tackling from Goodwin and Dawe steadied the ship. This solid defense then set the platform for three 1st half tries from Church, Dawe and Williams, the pick of the bunch being created by Murphy who broke down the line and slipped a deft inside pass to the supporting Church. Bedford ‘A’ mounted a second half recovery and cut the gap to one. Bedford then attacked en-mass; OA’s having to throw in tackle after tackle. At one point OAs were down to six men with injured players and no subs. Dawe duly downed his magic sponge and returned to the fray, OAs eventually holding a slender lead to win 3-2.
After having retired to the gazebo to lick their wounds and enjoy a sandwich or two, OA’s played their final match against Stockwood Park. The coaches, having explained the fact that the pitch was wider than 5 metres and that perhaps space should be exploited were dismayed to see Stockwood open up with a try from the start, through a well-executed move up the middle. All was about to change though. A thumping tackle by Leslie resulted in turnover ball. The ever present Goodwin hoovered up the ball near his own halfway line and dodged several players to touch down. A further four first half tries from Flanagan (3) and Clarke (1) saw OA’s overhaul Stockwood for a 5-1 half time lead. Fatigue and injury was clearly a factor for both sides in the second half and the ref recognizing this called an early halt to proceedings.
Having finished second in Pool B, Team A then contested the Plate final against Pool A runners-up, Old Scouts ‘A’. The final was a hotly contested battle. Old Scouts were a strong side, full of endeavour and energy. Well worked first half tries from Church and Williams kept OA’s in touch, but having a small squad of 8 players it was inevitable that their earlier exertions would play a part with OA’s eventually losing 6-2, to a very good opposition.
OA Team B
OA’s Team Blue (aka OA’s ‘B’ for the day) were in a tough group of six, including Hemel Hempstead ‘A’, Old Scouts ‘A’ and Olney ‘A’ (all were full strength streamed ‘A’ teams).
Our first game was against a very strong Hemel ‘A’, but with immense tackling from the outset OA’s did not give Hemel the opportunity to get into their usual attacking running game and by half time OA’s were just 2–0 down, but with momentum and confidence building on OA’s side. Two darting tries from Cuthbert early in the second half pulled OA’s level on the scoreboard and Hemel were beginning to worry and the touchline was getting excited about a major upset. Typical of OA’s commitment to make every tackle was a last ditch try saving tackle Humphrey made on Hemel’s winger bringing him to the ground and into touch for a turnover ball. With only a few minutes remaining two quick successive injuries left OA’s with only 6 players and despite gallant tackling from everyone OA’s could not keep out Hemel who ended winning 5 – 2. Hemel ‘A’ were the eventual winners of the Festival beating Old Northamptonians in the final of the cup.
Next up was Old Scouts ‘A’. Now back to a full complement of 7 players OA’s continued playing as they did against Hemel. Commitment to the tackle was unquestionable and with tries from Beal and Cuthbert OA’s were level at 2-2 at half time with all to play for. The second half saw a well drilled Old Scouts just edge clear and despite a second half drive over try from Marven, Old Scouts ended winners 5–3. Old Scouts were eventual winners of the plate final.
With some time for recovery and two hard fought games behind them, OA’s were keen to show more of their attacking game. Bedford could not contain OA’s in the first half with two tries a piece from Boudjema and Cuthbert and a try from Brighton put OA’s 5 –3 ahead at half time. OA’s were probably a little guilty of taking the foot of the gas in the second half which allowed Bedford to get back into the game, but with further tries in the second half from Brighton and Cotter saw OA’s eventual winners 7-6.
The next game was against Peterborough. OA’s wanted to up the intensity after letting Bedford back into the last game and this showed with strong tackling again led by Beal coming back to the fore and two very equal teams were up for the contest. First half tries from Beal and Cuthbert were offset by two first half tries from Peterborough leaving OA’s in a very familiar position of being level pegged with all to play for. OA’s were determined not to let this game slip and upped their game further in the second half with strong runs from Hudnott and tries from Boudjema and Humphrey. A final strong run by Cotter straight through the heart of Peterborough’s defence to the try line earned OA’s a well deserved 5–4 win.
The scheduling delays that built up during the day were against us for our final game as OA’s had to play a very strong Olney ‘A’ with only 5 minutes to recover from the last hard fought game. Fatigue was showing from the outset and despite no lack of commitment and a first half try from Cuthbert, OA’s were behind 4–1 at half time. Everyone dug deep in the second half against this big and quick team. Two great interceptions from Brighton to win the ball and tries from Cuthbert and Humphrey meant OA’s were only just edged out in the second half scoreline. The teams desire not to take a backward step in the second half was summed up by Latham not budging an inch to Olney’s biggest player. The game ended with every OA’s player completely spent and Olney winners 7 – 3.
Well done to all players!!