The Dirtrackers travelled to Martock for this pre-league warm up match for both sides. The Dirtrackers being in a 13 team league were the spare side on the opening week and Martock in a lesser team league wait until 20 September for their opening encounter. Hence this was an ideal fixture for both sides. The heatwave made this a warm up in more than one way.
Albion travelled with 19 players and welcomed back 2 former Colts – Sturdy (Charlie) and Higginson; Windsor reappeared from Cricketing duties; and Drabble whose unavailability had been uncertain due to NATO duty at Celtic Manor took up the number 10 role.
Albion started well and in the 6th minute Gibson in fine bullocking form throughout picked up at a scrum and released Page who scurried round the Martock defence from 40 metres to score at the posts and to duly convert. Gibson’s burst from the kick off again set up a good platform – the ball was kicked ahead and Page outsprinted the home defence to get the touchdown. From the next kick off Albion spun the ball to the right hand side and the ball just eluded Windsor’s chase. In the 16th minute Martock finally reached Albion’s 22 and used their bulky forwards to bumble over for a try which was converted. Play settled down to a steady pace with both defences holding strong. In the 26th minute Albion’s pack forced their way deep into Martock territory and when the ball came back Drabble produced a neat inside pass for Kerry to dash over and Page added the extras. Once again from the kick off Albion immediately moved back on attack through their forwards and when the ball was recycled this time Sturdy burst through for a further try which Page again improved. Albion were now in rampant form just before half time and their forwards drove the ball up the middle and when the ball reached the backs Harbour found himself in the unexpected position of centre but skilfully released McCarthy who ran in to the corner to score. Albion’s half time 31-7 lead was well deserved.
In the second half the heat took its toll as matters calmed down. Martock finally stirred themselves and secured their second try and conversion in the 55th minute. Albion had rung the changes through their team enabling everyone to have a decent run out and all responded well. Albion would have been particularly pleased with their defence which came under some pressure from Martock’s heavy forwards but generally held firm. This was so much so that at the end of the game Albion managed to move a ball from their own line with Page and Drabble firstly setting up Bertonshaw in a strong run up the middle and he in turn found his centre colleague Sturdy inside and 40 metres later the try was secured for Drabble this time to add the conversion. A 38-14 victory and a sound start and something to build on for the league programme now starting at Wellington on 13 September.
Every one contributed to this victory. The pack secured the ball well with a sound front row of Moulding, Ruddle and Saunders; Buck and Fogg demonstrated their around the field skills; the back row of Gibson, Frost and Higginson were always in the mix; outside Page and Drabble combined well and always caused the home side problems with their pace; and when the ball was moved Bertonshaw and Sturdy always made good ground setting up wings Kerry and Windsor; there was also Willis safe and sound in behind and always ready to join in the attacks. Albion’s replacements also supplemented the overall performance with Millburn, McCarthy and Harbour all adding to the teams laurels; even the Veteran Berry produced a cameo performance in the unfamiliar number 6 spot.
Team: Willis; J Kerry C Sturdy Bertonshaw Windsor; Drabble Page; Gibson Frost Higginson Fogg Buck Moulding Ruddle Saunders. Replacements – All use: Berry Millburn McCarthy Harbour.
Scorers: Tries – Page (2) Kerry Sturdy (2) McCarthy. Conversions – Page (3) Drabble.