Old Albanians 29 | 26 Colchester Ravens
Our Ravens come heartbreakingly close to a victory away in a stellar performance at Old Albanians
After picking up their first win of the season against Westcombe Park last week, Colchester’s second XV boarded the coach on Saturday for the trip to St Albans to take on National League 1 opposition Old Albanians. With some changes to the team, cohesiveness was always going to be key, but after two direct and purposeful training sessions during the week the players were up for the battle. And out of the blocks the Ravens shot, the first 10 minutes being a combination of excellent defence, purposeful running and pin-point kicking. With a black wall giving the home side nowhere to go except for kicking out of their half, Fly Half Jack White and Full back Adam O’leary returned fire to pin them back every time. Keeping the Nat 1 second team in their half was a tactic and the Ravens executed this well until finally the pressure became too much for Old A’s. From a right hand scrum to Colchester, the ball went wide on first phase and left wing Parry scored the first try of the match; the unconverted try giving Colchester a 0-5 lead. The following 20 minutes were also all Colchester, scrum dominance forcing turnovers and keeping the visitors in the right area of the pitch. The Ravens then scored their second after some good work through the middle gave centre Adam Cook an opportunity to score from a pick and go, White converting to make it 0-12 after 20 minutes. Old A’s big pack took route one each time they had the ball, but the commitment of the Colchester eight kept them honest. On 30 minutes the home side shifted the ball left and kicked through into the Ravens 22, and even though Lock Ben Harfield covered the ball close to the try line, Hooker Daniel Hexley was adjudged to have pulled back an Old A’s player and was yellow carded for his trouble. From the penalty Old A’s scored to make it 5-12, and the remainder of the half went all their way when they moved the ball wide to score two further tried to make it 19-12 at the break.
Going into the second half and now back to a full complement, Colchester looked to focus on getting back to what was working well and playing rugby in the Old A’s half of the pitch. The first 20 minutes was a tussle, with Old A’s beginning to get the upper hand around the ruck with their large Number 8 managing to make metres and offload to support. Although the game seemed fairly even, it was the home side that pulled away scoring another two tries on 53 minutes and 57 minutes respectively. With just over a quarter of the game left and the score 29-12 one could have thought that it may have been going one way. However, with steel and resolve, the Ravens kept on fighting and as the second half had been quite close (apart from the score line), Colchester took the game by the scruff of the neck to rampage back into contention. From some excellent work from the whole team, impressive winger Parry scored his second of the match which White converted into the wind from near the touchline, reducing the deficit to 10 points and with 13 minutes to go. More aggressive defence in the Old A’s half forced them to kick to the back three, and with Parry fielding the kick he set off towards the approaching wall of defence. Taking it right to the line, Parry feinted and then spun the ball to O’Leary, who running straight and at full tilt from 40 metres out, took the pass to race through and score the Ravens fourth on 73 minutes. White against converted and the score was now 29-26. The remainder of the match was an incredibly tense, to-and-fro affair; however it was Colchester again who looked likeliest to score. And on the last play of the match, the Ravens went through multiple phases, attacking the right hand side of the park where Cook took the ball inches from the line, only for a last ditch tackle to knock the ball from his grasp. The ref blew for no-side and a pulsating game ended 29-26 to Old Albanians. However as a team, the Ravens performance was commendable against a team three divisions above, and they took 2 extra points for again scoring 4 tries and for being within seven points at the end.