Old Albanian Under 9’s dominated this year’s Hertfordshire County Contact Festival, winning three of the four trophies on offer and coming runners-up in the fourth.
Spread across the Cup, Shield, Plate and Bowl Competitions over 50 boys braved the heat and perfect pitch conditions…..
OA Bulls win the County Cup Final
Drawn in Pool 1 of the Cup, OA Bulls got off to a flyer, opening up with a 4-0 win against a powerful and determined Hitchin Team. Another great performance from the boys saw them wrap up a hard fought 3-0 win against Old Verulamium whose solid defence proved tough to crack. The team then rounded off the pool with a narrow 2-1 victory against Hertford.
At the business end of the competition, a quarter-final against Bishops Stortford saw OAs edge a tight match 2-1. Bishops Stortford took an early lead, but a ferocious defensive effort in the second half performance from OAs resulted in two winning tries.
An even closer semi-final against Hemel Hempstead saw OA edge a tense match 1-0. Both sides showed great handling skills in attack, but both defences were equal to the task. The result was eventually decided by a single line break in favour of the Bulls.
The final against hosts Barnet was a cracker and both teams showed their full array of skills. Barnet opened the scoring only for OAs to hit back immediately and level the score. Both teams continued to attack relentlessly, however two quick tries from OAs saw them open up a 3-1 lead.
Having only just played a tough semi-final against Tring, a match that was only settled after 2 periods of extra time, Barnet could have folded, but instead they summoned their last reserves and brought the score back to 3-2, however the OA Bulls held out for the win and the title of Hertfordshire U9 County Cup Champions.
OA Cheetahs snap up the County Shield
OA Cheetahs, notoriously slow starters, opened up with a narrow 2-1 win against local rivals Harpenden C’s.
Having been read the riot act by the coach, the Cheetahs upped their game, producing a much improved performance against Old Verulamium ending with a 7-0 victory.
In the final Pool match against Tabard, the Cheetahs got out of the blocks early. Quick opening tries set the tone for a dominant display, with the Cheetahs scoring a further 4 tries for a 6-0 win and finishing top of their Pool.
The knockout stages of the tournament saw the Cheetahs drawn against a strong Hertford side. The match started evenly but as the game went on the Cheetahs aggressive defence and sublime passing to wide spaces allowed our pacy wingers to score tries with OAs running out 5-1 winners.
The reward for this was a semi-final against Harpenden B’s and the match proved to be a thriller. After twice being behind to breakaway tries the Cheetahs forced extra time. The sheer desire to make the final showed in huge defensive display forcing the opposition backwards. This pressure culminated in turnover possession and space out wide to run in two further tries to win a tense semi-final 4-2.
Having just played a lengthy semi-final, the Cheetahs drew on their last energies for the Plate Final. Our opponents, Tring B wasted no time and early try by Tring made the initial exchanges of the game very nervous but the aggressive tackling by the Cheetahs in defence led to turnovers. In possession hard yards down the middle sucked in the Tring players allowing fluid passing to the wings to again pay dividends with a succession of tries. The result was a remarkable 5-1 win and the Shield.
OA Chiefs storm to the County Plate
A fine balance of stubborn defence, barnstorming running and scintillating attack play, delivered the Plate in style with a true all round team performance.
In their first match, the Chiefs battled hard against Chess Valley. Playing on a pitch akin to the north face of the Eiger, they put in a great defensive game, and when they got the ball wide to the wings managed to score a try in each half to win 2-0. The second game against Harpenden was a bit more straightforward. With growing confidence and great link play out of the tackle, the Chiefs dominated both halves to run out winners 4-0. Again, spinning the ball wide after thunderous barnstorming runs down the middle proved to be the winning formula.
Unfortunately, Hemel Hempstead had withdrawn from the competition, so as group winners, the Chiefs had about a 3 day wait until the semi final against Hitchin. However, in spite of burger & cheesy chip overload, the boys continued in their rich vein of form, in beating tough opponents 3-1. Again, a formula of miserly defence and great link play won the game.
The Final saw us re-united against Chess Valley. The Chiefs tails were up and there was no stopping them. As they had been throughout the day, our defensive play was the best it had been all season, tackling like demons. The opposition had no answer to our aggressive running game, and when the ball was passed wide, good yards were made every time. However, in spite of all their efforts and the assistance of the wind and playing down hill, the Chiefs turned around only 1-0 up. In the face of the mountain in the 2nd half they scored 2 more tries to run out 3-0 winners.
OA Stormers and OA Lions come close in Bowl Competition
In the Bowl Competition, the OA Sharks and OA Lions enjoyed a great day.
This was a first taste of County Championship rugby for many of the OA Lions. This made their opening victory against Harpenden even more impressive. Everyone starred in a total team performance. Thereafter they faced very strong Hertford and Barnet teams, the former going on to win the competition outright. Undeterred, they put in impressive displays, never letting any side escape them. And in attack they carried well, with strong running through the middle whilst continuously probing the flanks for opportunities.
The OA Stormers finished as Pool 2 winners having beaten Barnet, Hertford and Harpenden. The Stormers started slowly and in an error strewn game against Hertford, they edged a 1-0 victory with the very last play of the game. Their defence was impeccable all day and they managed to only concede one try during the three opening pool games. In the last pool game they hit top form running in seven tries without reply.
In the semi-final, having drawn 2-2 at the final whistle, the Stormers needed extra time against Chess Valley. Defence was key again and they quickly went 3-0 up, only conceding in the last minute to come through 3-1. In the Bowl final the boys came up against a very big Hertford side. They gave it 100% and held them to 1-0 at half time, but size told in the end and Hertford eventually ran out 3-1 winners.