This calendar year is just three weeks old and Albanians are riding their own version of roller-coaster, writes Brian Quinn.

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Tynedale showed OAs that their successful pre-Xmas form needed application and resolve and this was provided against Esher in no small measure. Rosslyn Park demonstrated last weekend why they are closing fast on the leadership of National One with a clear and sustained example of power and intensity.

Andy Holloway’s men had travelled to Priory Lane in confident mood even though the services of three England U20s were not and A’s started confidently enough.

Seven minutes in and Lawrence Rayner opened the scoring with a neat penalty from 40 metres. His forwards, for the moment, maintained their territorial advantage but it took a smart interception by skipper Billy Johnson to save a certain try with 15 minutes gone.

Park took the initiative from this and drove possession towards the OA line where fly half Scott Sneddon flighted a perfect crossfield kick to his waiting left wing Dave Vincent who was able to walk in at the corner. Sneddon converted from the touchline.

Just into the second quarter a promising A’s attack floundered when the ball was lost in contact and hacked forward 30 metres. A penalty followed the Park scrum 10 metres out and, from the lineout, Sam Shires drove over on the short side too far out for Sneddon’s improvement. Rayner narrowed the gap with a snap drop goal but Sneddon’s penalty on 35 minutes stretched it again.

Matt Chambers ensured a bright conclusion to the half with an interception and drive which led to a lineout five metres from the Park line on the left. The hosts defended the danger and led 15-6 at the interval.

Sneddon’s second penalty four minutes into the second period put daylight between the sides but an injury to back row Harry Broadbent meant he left the field on a stretcher.

Park regrouped and with 23 minutes gone Richard Boyle forced his way over the line after an Albanian lineout. Vincent grabbed his second and his side’s bonus point three minutes later to put matters beyond doubt. Sneddon converted both.

A stout Park defence and the power of their tight scrum left very few gaps for the visitors as the tie wound down. Jimmy Speirs took matters into his own hands with five minutes left and deft footwork took him past Vincent in the narrowest of corridors. Rayner converted this fine individual try but before the whistle Charlie Broughton notched Park’s fifth of the afternoon.

Albanians met a stronger team on the day and were not embarrassed and, though some work needs to be done on defence, the visitors gained more turnovers than the victors. The OA lineout was as strong as ever and distribution from the half backs slick and secure. However problems at the scrum need to be addressed before Coventry come calling next Saturday, kick-off 3pm, at Woollams.

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