National 2 South
Old Albanian 22, Taunton Titans 23

BUOYED by their home win over league leaders Tonbridge Juddians the previous week, Taunton Titans backed it up with a narrow victory against Old Albanian in Hertfordshire on Saturday, to remain in the promotion hunt, writes Dick Macey.

Always tough opponents, the OAs were only beaten by two points on their visit to the Towergate Stadium in October and so, despite their confident performance the week before, the Taunton boys knew they were in for a scrap - and so it proved.

Nonetheless, the Titans began at a blistering pace and within 15 minutes they were 15-0 up through tries by Ratu “Toots” Vakalutukali and Oscar Kolowski, with Gary Kingdom adding one conversion and a penalty.

Just when you might have been wondering how many Taunton might score, the hosts woke up.

It was a dramatic transformation from docility to frantic aggression, with their defensive skills being fully and effectively put to work, a rolling maul being exercised with impunity and a realisation that they could compete.

As a result, they had shut the Titans out of any meaningful possession and had clambered back into the game to go in level at 15-15 at half-time.

The second session began with the same absorbing cut and thrust but with no advance on the scoreboard until a slightly against the run of play penalty goal was landed by Kingdom to give the Titans an edge.

As the game wore on it seemed as if this would carry Taunton through, but their latter persistence led to a second well-taken Vakalutukali try and an eight-point lead - game over?

OAs had other thoughts and they hammered through from the restart to snatch possession, which lead to a converted try and the final whistle, with the Titans winning by the narrowest of margins.

Taunton Titans: Connor Baker, Alex Spurdle, Isaac Dalton, Stuart Persey, Cory Teague, Ben Oliphant-Thompson, Ratu Vakalutukali, Dan Lee (c), James Tait, Lewis Webb, Oscar Kolowski, Toby East, Thomas Wyatt, Jack Arnott, Gary Kingdom. Replacements: Chris Francis, Gary Carpenter, Barrie Chapman, Brett Harvey, Tom Popham.

Other results around the league brought the Titans back to within five points of Tonbridge, who reclaimed top spot after Henley’s defeat at Redruth.

The consensus around the Taunton optimists now is that if they can continue winning their games from here to the end of the season, the Titans will be in the bun fight as serious promotion contenders.

This coming Saturday (3pm) the Titans return to Towergate Stadium to take on Westcliff, newcomers to the league, who seem to have overcome some early setbacks to secure their place going into next season’s campaign.

This game will be preceded by the President’s Day lunch with an auction and bumper raffle.