Colchester Ravens 38 | 31 Old Albanian's
An evenly fought contest, however, Colchester Ravens ultimately had the upper edge to claim their 2nd victory in a row.
On a warm and sunny Saturday, Colchester’s 2nd XV hosted Old Albanian’s in the reverse of was a very close fixture from earlier on in the season. That game ended 29-26 to Old A’s, in what could have been a victory snatched from the claws of defeat for the visitors – however it was not to be, and Saturday offered a strong Raven’s squad the chance for retribution. With Colchester receiving the kick off, Old A’s managed to win back the ball and within just a couple of minutes, drove up to the line to score the first try of the game. The conversion made it 0-7 with the home side having not even fired a shot.
After restarting the game, it wasn’t long before the Raven’s started to get into their grove with some excellent phase play with the back row of Ollie White, Rob Pickard and Captain Andy Goodbourn complimenting the physical tight five, and the decisive direction shown from fly-half Matt Barnes. From the first scrum, the Colchester pack had unequivocal dominance and began to either put their Number 8 on the back foot or win the penalty as the Old A’s scrum was pushed back from the mark. From this platform, the Ravens score their first from a quick tap penalty with right winger Paul Summerson dotting down out wide to make it 5-7 on 12 minutes.
For the next quarter of an hour, the Ravens pressed their dominance, but it was Old A’s who chalked up the next lot of points. From 35 metres in front, they kicked a penalty to make it 5-10, and then with 10 minutes left in the half, they scored their second try to push it out to 5-17. However, with consistent infringements throughout the half complied by another two in one sequence of play, Old A’s eventually had their Number 8 sent from the field. With the numerical advantage, the Raven’s pressed the advantage with the dynamic loosehead prop Troy Palmer scoring on 37 minutes, and White scoring on the stroke of half-time to lock the score up 17-17 at the break.
On the resumption of the game and still down to 14 for the next few minutes, Old A’s raced out of the blocks to score their third try to make it 17-24 on 43 minutes. However again this seemed to jolt the Raven’s into action and for the next 20 minutes, it was mostly all Colchester. Simon Gray’s introduction into the front row at halftime did not diminish any mobility, and with Alex Mitchell anchoring the scrum at tighthead, the set piece continued to dominate. For a day of braces, on 47 minutes Summerson crossed for his second to level the score at 24-24 after an excellent break and link work by Dan Hexley and Palmer. Scrumhalf Lewis Williams, who had been whipping the ball out to his backline all day was eventually replaced by Will Tillett, who changed the Raven’s dynamic with direct running and testing the Old A’s defence around the fringes. This good work brought Palmer into the fray again and on 55 minutes he crossed for his second, with White also dotting down only 3 minutes later complete the triple-double and seemingly press the score out of Old Albanians clutches at 38-24.
The visitors though didn’t give up, and after the game went uncontested due to their lack of front row replacements, started to get some parity. The Old A’s scrum-half was tricky and began to catch the Colchester defence napping around the ruck area which in turn gave them the opportunity to get their offloading game going. After a break through the midfield, Old A’s looked like they were going to run it in their fourth only for Ben Harfield to chop them down in the 22. Unfortunately, at this point the Ravens lost influential flanker Pickard to a knee injury and with only 9 minutes remaining, the game had a 10-minute break.
When the game resumed, the Ravens were caught cold and the visitors scored their bonus point try to make it 38-31. The last handful of minutes was a tense affair, with both sides anxious in their style of play – The Raven’s looking to hold out for a win, and Old A’s looking for the draw. With 20 seconds to go, Colchester had a lineout on halfway; their lineout, with Rory Miller the mainstay throughout, won the ball and after going through a couple of phases, Barnes punted the ball out to secure the Raven’s second win in a row. An excellent game from both sides and a well-deserved win for the Ravens.