Fightback is in vain as UCS Old Boys are defeated at St Albans
16:02 25 February 2014
UCS Old Boys staged a brave fightback after a nightmare start away at St Albans, but they were unable to salvage the game and went down 30-18 in London North-West Division Two.
Xander Ancock took over captaincy duties for the day, leading a team who - like the current England squad - had relatively few caps between them but made up for it with heart and energy.
Unfortunately a bouncing ball from the kick-off ended up in green hands and St Albans touched down in only a few seconds before repeating the feat moments later to go 12-0 up after a matter of minutes.
At this point it would have been very easy for a team to fold, but UCS showed great fight and spent the next 15 minutes camped in the home side’s half.
The line-out, led by Alex Jayne and fed by the shapely arcs of Ancock, functioned brilliantly all day and, along with a strong driving maul, that gave UCS a good platform.
Time after time the Old Boys knocked on the door with strong carries from the forwards, but they couldn’t quite break the line and the visitors had to settle for an Elliot Lowe penalty to show for their efforts.
Throughout the game the UCS backs looked dangerous. Excellent running lines from centres Dan Sleath and Dom Rollo-Walker broke the gain line several times, but they often lacked support runners to make the most of the breaks.
Down the wings, both Elliot Lowe and Tom Loughnan, along with full-back Tom Arnold, covered well and made yards running the ball back.
When again the game was on the verge of slipping out of control again after another St Albans try, responded well.
A clearance kick sent deep into the UCS half was gathered by Lowe, who carried it up and passed across to the supporting Loughnan – and he beat another man before offloading to No10 Dan Hastings, who stepped past a final defender and ran in under the posts.
The conversion left the Old Boys just 19-10 behind at the interval, and they continued to close the gap after the break.
The kick-off sent the ball deep into St. Albans territory and, after winning a line-out in the 22, the UCS driving maul again showed its dominance, almost making it to the line.
Several blast balls from the likes of Jack Boulden and Mert Zabci in the back row almost made it over before Ricky Cohen, picking up at the base of the ruck, fended off the blindside defender and scored in the corner to make it 19-15.
The scrum was scrappy but UCS gave a good account of themselves, not losing any against the head - thanks mainly to the propping work of Gareth Watson-Cowan and Dave Myers.
The replacements in the forwards also had an impact, with experienced hand Tom Brandt making several big carries and Noah Miller making an important steal in the ruck on the UCS five-metre line.
Yet the Old Boys were unable to convert their pressure into maximum points, which proved fatal in the end because, five minutes from time, St Albans put the game out of reach with a try and a well-taken penalty.
Having given away 12 points in the first five minutes, UCS ended up 12 points down at the end, never quite being able to make up the difference.
UCS Old Boys: Watson-Cowan, Ancock, Myers (Miller), Cohen (Brandt), Jayne, Boulden, Zabci, Boulden, Breakwell, Hastings, Lowe, Sleath, Rollo-Walker, Loughnan, Arnold (Fonua).