Park escape with victory after Old Albanians comeback
10:53am Monday 7th October 2013 in Sport
A sensational finish saw Rosslyn Park beat Old Albanians 27-24 in National One on Saturday as the home side passed up a last-minute penalty that would have given them draw.
Three points down, Old Albanians launched a last-ditch attack in which Park were penalised for a professional foul under their own posts. The resulting penalty, a formality and the last kick of the match, would have given the home side the three points they needed to draw.
Bravely, they gambled everything to go for the outright win and opted instead for a scrum, with Park reduced to 14 men as a result of the infringement. They tried to force a penalty try, but Park’s scrum held firm to claim the win that looked a formality in the opening half.
"I was delighted with the first 38 minutes and to be 17-0 up highlighted our dominance," said Park's head coach Alex Codling.
"The only frustration was that we should have been out of sight. To concede a soft try before half time gave OA's a shot in the arm and they came back at us hard in the second half, but we deserved the win and look forward to being back at home to Wharfedale on Saturday.
"They have got some momentum with two wins in their last two games away at Tynedale and at home to Esher so we are fully aware of the challenge that awaits but we will work hard this week to ensure we build on the first half performance."
For the first half hour Park had been almost embarrassingly the better side. Early pressure saw a penalty to give Sam Katz the chance to give his side an attacking line out. A further penalty on five minutes was accepted by the fly half to put his side 3-0 ahead.
OAs were under immense pressure, constantly penalised at the scrum and Park’s midfield defence strangling their moves almost at birth.
When the home side finally mounted an attack, they nearly paid a high price for their effrontery as Park winger Dave Vincent made a powerful counter attack, being halted only five metres from the home line.
The attack continued until Park were penalised with the line apparently at their mercy. Then full-back Pete Hodgkinson was put through, but the move had been spoiled by an earlier forward pass.
A sliced clearance under pressure gave Park a line-out on the home 22 and eventually the ball was spread to the right where winger Dom Shabbo sprinted to dive over on 15 minutes, Katz nailing the conversion for 10-10.
Old Albanians had a rare opportunity when gaining a penalty on half-way on 20 minutes, but Lawrence Rayner’s effort was well wide of the posts.
The home side were still struggling hopelessly in the scrum and a penalty, more or less in front of the posts, was spurned by Katz to kick to the corner. Reward came when hooker Adam Bellamy got over from the resulting line-out, and Katz made a difficult conversion look easy for 17-0.
The visitors looked to be in cruise control, albeit without the points to reflect their superiority, but as the interval approached there were definite signs of an OA revival as they buckled down to try to force their way back into the match.
On 38 minutes, the home side gained a penalty on halfway, which they belted to the corner and drove over for Oliver Cooper-Miller to claim the try, Rayner adding a good conversion for 17-7. A ten point lead seemed to be a miserly return for Park’s contribution.
The visitors made the brighter start to the second half, soon winning a penalty in front of the posts, but Katz proved to be human and missed it.
A great move from Park saw Hodgkinson cut in well inside the 22 but he was pinged for not releasing. OA countered and when Park were penalised on 46 minutes Rayner reduced the lead to a mere four points and Park were in a serious match.
Park returned to the attack, and following a line-out in OA territory scrum half Matt Heeks darted in to snipe a neat try, converted by Katz to put Park back into what looked safe territory with a 24-10 lead.
However, OA were not done yet. Gaining a penalty they again hoofed to the corner to set up the drive. This time Park’s defence was more obdurate, but as a result of forcing OA sideways rather than forward when OA did summon up the extra oomph to drive over they were near enough to the posts for Billy Johnson’s try that Rayner’s conversion was a doddle and at 24-17 Park still had more to do.
Things looked distinctly dodgy for the visitors when OA had another kick to the corner, but this time it was defended successfully and Park swept upfield on another promising attack, only to get themselves penalised inside the 22.
They were soon back on the attack with several pick and drives at the line but what looked like a scoring pass was knocked on. OA were under immense pressure; a clearance kick from behind their own line hit the padding on the post, to spin tantalisingly on the ground in the in-goal area but a defender got there first and cleared their lines.
Park were soon back and won a penalty in easy kicking distance and Katz took the points on offer rather than go for the bonus point try, making it 27-17 with 15 minutes left.
The wisdom of that decision became apparent three minutes later when, aided and abetted by some uncharacteristically poor defending by Park, OAs Christoff Lombard got round the outside of the defence on its right flank and went in close enough to the posts to give Rayner a comfortable conversion for 27-24 with 12 minutes left to play.
OA now looked a completely different team to the one that had struggled in the first half and tested Park to the limit as they went for an unlikely win. It ended in that last, failed gamble.
Taken overall, Park deserved to win, and had they taken their chances would have won with something to spare – but OAs give them one hell of a fright.
Park: Hodgkinson; Shabbo, Staff, Gower (Hamilton), Vincent; Katz; Heeks (Grant); Liffchak (Lundberg), Bellamy (Cobb) McKenzie; Inglis (McDonald), Boyle; Starling, Lonergan, Shires.
Park scorers: Shabbo (T), Bellamy (T), Heeks (T), Katz (2P, 3C).