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Ipswich now staring at relegation

PUBLISHED: 12:47 13 February 2002 | UPDATED: 11:21 03 March 2010

RUGBY UNION: Old Albanians 32 Ipswich 3. Ipswich slip a little closer to the relegation zone, and with only six games remaining, two against top three opposition, they are in for a real battle for survival.

Old Albanians 32 Ipswich 3

IPSWICH slip a little closer to the relegation zone, and with only six games remaining, two against top three opposition, they are in for a real battle for survival.

Their cause was not helped by the unavailability of Rush, Blythe and Murphy in the back row, Price in the second row, and Van Heerden and Harding in the threequarters.

If Ipswich wish to succeed at this level, they will have to try and find a way of playing a consistent squad of 20 players week-in and week-out. Bolton and Edmunds were on the flanks, neither having played regularly this season.

Coaching staff Atherton and Hancock were forced to be on the bench.

With so much disruption, it is not surprising that they found it difficult to emulate the defensive efforts of the previous Saturday, when they tackled their hearts out. They looked disjointed, and struggled to come to terms with a well-drilled Old A's pack.

Tackles were not effective enough, allowing Old Albanians to make ground, when they really should have been driven back.

On two occasions the home side scored easy tries when the first tackle was weak and Old Albanians just needed to pick up the ball and stroll in unopposed.

The game could not have started worse. After five minutes, Ipswich won the ball from a defensive scrum, fly half Hinds under pressure had his clearance kick charged down. The ball fell kindly to the only Old Albanians player within 20 metres, and Ipswich found themselves behind.

Ipswich did rally briefly, and took the game into the home team's 22-metre through some excellent driving and rucking. Old Albanians had to concede a penalty, and Hughes converted.

Old A's were next to score, from a line-out, set up a maul, and despite good defensive work from the Ipswich eight, they slowly rumbled the ball over the line.

With the score at 15-3, and Ipswich playing into a stiff wind, the away side were still in contention, despite the fact that by their standards they were not firing on all cyclinders.

This was Ipswich's best period of the game, however half backs Johnson and Hinds were struggling to gel. The ball that the backs did get, tended to be slow, forcing Hinds and Hughes into kicking possession away.

Perhaps this was the most telling aspect of the game. Ipswich needed to keep possession, control the game, and force the larger Old A's pack to move around more. They did not look as fit as the Ipswich pack, although they had one or two excellent players.

Old A's were able to slow the ball down, and whenever Hughes or Hinds did kick, they simply ran the ball back to their forwards who drove the ball downfield.

In the dying seconds of the first half, Old A's launched a sustained attack. The Black and Gold's held firm, and if Ipswich could hold firm, the game was up for grabs.

Old A's moved the ball wide right, and their winger was tackled by Novosad and full back Searle. They should have dumped him, but instead he was allowed to offload the ball to his support, and the flanker crashed over in the corner.

Against the run of play, it was Old A's who scored again. From a maul 30 metres out, their hooker took the ball at pace, brushing aside two ineffectual tackles to sprint and touch down under the posts.

With the game dead and buried, Ipswich were forced to throw caution to the wind.

Two more tries were conceded before the referee blew for full time, a relief for the supporters and players who had battled through traffic on the M25.

"This was a very disappointing," said Atherton, "We did not play well, we looked disjointed, forgot the game plan, and our defence was poor. We gifted them at least four tries, and you cannot do that and expect to win games."

Ipswich face Southend in the Eastern Counties Cup at Humber Doucy Lane next Sunday, their tormentors of two weeks ago.


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