Another Saturday, Another Narrow Defeat
St Albans 21 Old Penarthians 24
St Albans RFC welcomed old friends, Old Penarthians back to Tremorfa Park after a short absence. After a year in Division 3C, the Old Pens, as champions, had returned as an improved and re-energised side,
Playing into the wind, St Albans made a strong start. The pack had the edge in the front row, with Doherty, Ryan, and Boyle to the fore, and dominated field position resulting in two early penalties from Mike Thomas. The Buns were getting confident with forwards and backs combining well. It was great to see the forwards handle but one pass too many was picked off by the Old Pens to race away under the posts for a 7-6 lead.
From the kick off, St Albans quickly returned to the attack - hoping to continue their early dominance. Despite going forward, St Albans were penalised at the scrum & the Old Pens capitalised on home surprise with a quick tap and a long range try, expertly finished by their backs. Amazingly, despite dominating the opening quarter, the Buns were 6-14 down. They looked shell shocked when the Old Pens won a line out, juggled a ball in midfield, before again racing through for a 21-6 lead.
St Albans returned to the attack – and Gardner and Thomas – nursed their team into position for another period of territorial dominance. With Joe Khan, Max Hart and Nicky Kelly showing well a try looked inevitable. A succession of dominant scrums on the Old Pens line seemed sure to yield a score – with a penalty try looking likely. However despite winning their umpteenth scrum penalty, the Buns reacted to a twisted scrum and lost a player to the Bin.
Despite the yellow card, St Albans continued to press but the Away team held out. A yellow for the visitors – and a 3rd penalty from Thomas had the Buns trailing 9-21 at Half Time.
With the wind, St Albans still fancied their chances. The away pack improved but the Buns still had the edge. When ex Skipper, Mike Neale, made a long awaited return from the Bench – the home team moved forward. Neale scored – converted by Thomas – St Albans back to 16-21 and fancying their chances. It was to the Old Pens credit that they dug in, made their tackles and launched their backs when opportunities arose. A rare foray into the Buns half secured a kickable penalty. The successful penalty proved crucial stretching the lead to 8 points.
St Albans were still edging the game but the Old Pens were looking increasingly comfortable in defence. To the Buns’ credit, they played to the final whistle and a Robert Cooper try brought the score to 21-24, a losing bonus point.
Too many enforced changes – and an inability to fill the Bench – are hitting the Buns hard.
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