Peter Gavin previews Old Albanian v Worthing Raiders

MATCH 7
Old Albanian RFC v Worthing Raiders
19th October 2019
kick-off 3 pm

Raiders take to the road this Saturday heading North to visit our old friends and rivals, Old Albanian, at their extensive facility ‘Woollams’ in St Albans. This will be our sixth visit for a National League fixture. The corresponding fixture last season took place in February, an amazing match somehow ended up honours even 34points apiece (3-3 !). We have played the club many times dating back to 2003 in London 1.

History & Background stuff
St Albans School, founded in 948 AD, making the school amongst the oldest in the country, is at the heart of OA. A few former pupils with the urge to continue to play rugby together formed the club in 1924. A farmer’s field, a WW1 barrack hut for a pavilion and boundless enthusiasm (and a few beers!) got the club going. Originally fixtures were played at a ground known as Beech Bottom, but a move was made in 2002 to the existing extensive facility known as ‘Woollams’. The 70 acre site is named after a generous benefactor to the School and former mayor of St Albans, Charles Woollam.

The club became ‘open’ in 1937 providing rugby for all not just for old boys of the School.
England stalwart prop forward Jeff Probyn started his career at OA.

The club put out 3 or 4 sides on Saturdays with Junior and mini rugby taking over on Sundays (900+ turn up!). Ladies rugby, OA Saints, play in Championship South East 2.
The club has a strong link to Saracens, who use the facilities for training.

Club colours: Maroon, Navy & Gold.

Raiders v Old Albanian
We have played OA at level 5 (aka London 1), level 4 (National 2 South) and level 3 (National League 1): Worthing were promoted to level 4 in 2008, with OA catching up in 2010. They pipped us for promotion to level 3 in 2012, but we joined them for season 2013/4. Raiders were relegated, but OA joined us back in level 4 in season 2015/6. They bounced straight back to level 3, but were relegated in 2018.

A resume of the results and league finishing positions:

2007 – 08 OA 8 – W 27 / W 38 – OA 13                                           W 2nd (promoted via play off) OA 3rd
2010/11 OA 36 – W 27 / W 32 – OA 25                                             W 8th OA 5th
2011/12 OA 50 – W 24 / W 13 – OA 41                                              W 3rd OA 1st (promoted)
2013/14 OA 33 – W 20 / W 31 – OA 32                                             W 15th (relegated) OA 10th
2015/16 OA 27 – W 3 / W 24 – OA 31                                                W 11th OA 2nd (promoted)
2018/19 OA 34 – W 34 / W 16 – OA 21                                              W 9th OA 10th

Old Albanian last season W12 / D1 / L17 10th 66 points Raiders 9th 68 points
An immediate bounce back to National 1, as achieved in 2016, was not really on the cards. Four matches were lost in the first 8, but a very poor run from mid-December to early February with 7 successive defeats ensured OA would finish in the mid-table pack. Despite this relatively disappointing season they were the only other team apart from TJs to down the colours of run-away Champions RAMs (18-10). The win achieved in the 4th fixture of the season set-off a mini tsunami amongst the result predictors!

Versatile three-quarter Dan Watt led the way with 210 points (10T/ 59C / 14P) from 28 starts with experienced scrum-half Morgan Thompson also making 28 appearances. The club used 50 different players to fulfil the fixtures.

27th October 2018 Worthing Raiders 16 Old Albanian 21
Just one point and one league spot (21/20 8th/9th) separated the sides prior to this fixture. Raiders hoping with home advantage to increase the daylight. Alas it was not to be, despite staging an onslaught in opposition territory for much of the final quarter, the pressure could not be converted into victory.

Raiders: McLean, Maslen, Forrest J, Sims, Forrest H, Gwyther, Holt, Birch, Luke, Gatford, Rees, Lake, Harris, Price, Perkins.
Bench: Grief, Adams, Lee, Boyland, Richards.
Scorers: T: Perkins (39m), Holt (45m): P: McLean x2 (19 & 69)

Old Albanian: Ricci, Anderson, Watson, Watt, Warne, Wicks, Thompson, Hughes, White-Martinez, Chamnaoui, Hamilton, Illston, Scopes, Mundy, West C.
Bench: Townsend, Ackuaku, Napier, Hill, Smith.
Scorers: T: Warne (9m), Watt (20m & 59m): C: Watt x3.

16th February 2019 Old Albanian 34 Worthing Raiders 34
Raiders travelled in the knowledge that OAs were in touching distance a mere 2pts, but 4 league spots (8th -12th) ahead…could we bring back a win to the south coast? After 21 mins Raiders were ahead 0-24 a 4try bonus point in the bag and a hat-trick for Harry Barlow! Entering the final quarter of the game OAs led 29-27!! A try from Tim Bond put OA’s further ahead, but a Jack Forrest try in 76th minute with the conversion from Matt McLean secured the draw. (3 league points apiece)

Old Albanian: Watson, Deane, Holdsworth, Watt, Brown O, Wicks, Thompson, Morgan, Bond M, Hughes, Bond T, Illston, Betts, Munday, Hill.
Bench; Martinez, Ackuaku, BrownA, Pritchard, Lewis.
Scorers: T: Hughes (29), Munday x2 (33 &40), Thompson (45), Bond T x2 (62 & 70): C: Watt x2.

Raiders: Forrest H, Maslen, Forrest J, Miller, Barlow H, McLean, Holt, Birch, Gibson, Litterick, Hammond, Lake, Cuffe, Dawe, Richards.
Bench: Luke, Gatford, Harris, Sassone, Boyland.
Scorers: T: Barlow x3 (5, 8, & 21) Richards (18), Forrest J (76): P: McLean (58) C: McLean x3.

This season so far….. W3 L3 PF171/A148 TBP 4 LBP 1 (8th 17 points)…… (Raiders 11th 11 points)
A straight split with the wins at Woollams, Bury St Edmunds (38-19), Sutton & Epsom (43-18) and Bournemouth (39-14). On the road they have lost to, Leicester Lions (38-7) and Old Redcliffians (21-8). Last Saturday they had a close call in Taunton (38-36). Titans led 38-21with less than 7 minutes left on the clock, but after a great fight back the conversion to tie the match drifted past.

Players
As usual a list of the squad used last week is provided, along with detail on a few other players who have turned out in recent fixtures. They have chopped and changed their starting line up somewhat, but experienced players, centre Dan Watt, scrum half Morgan Thompson and hooker Jamie Townsend have been virtually ever-present. OAs have had quite an influx of fresh talent with 8 of the starting line-up against Titans new to the team this season. Conor Gracey has been involved in all of the six fixtures so far with the other newcomers inter-changing. As always there are a few members of the Saracens Academy involved.

As usual this fixture bears all the hallmarks of another exciting encounter with both teams likely to be fielding a plethora of young talented players. Please try and make the interesting journey to St Albans to watch what is very likely to be a great game.

Your support on the touchline is a vital ingredient and much appreciated by the players.

….C’Mon Raiders!!!!