1st XV Match Preview V Old Albanian (H) Sat 22/10/2016 

By Glyn Barlow 

To put minds at rest we are not facing a team from the Balkans this Saturday, in some strange European cup competition, but are instead hosting new opponents from slightly closer to home in Old Albanian a team from Hertfordshire.

The club takes its name from St Albans school when a group of ex pupils set up the club in 1924 as a way to continue to play rugby together. The club became an open club in the 1970’s entering league rugby in 1987 as part of London League 2, eventually being promoted to London 1 in 2002.

Promotion to the National Leagues came in 2011 as they moved up to National 2 South. Their stay in National 2 was short as they gained an impressive instant promotion that season to National 1. Not content with this the team managed to finish fifth in their first season in National 1. Unfortunately for Albanians the progress halted there and they were relegated at the end of the 2014/15 season.

But you can’t keep a good club down and last season they finished second in National 2 South winning promotion via a playoff with Sedgley Park 24-0.

Well known players who have appeared in the Albanian ranks include England prop Jeff Probyn, second row Bob Wilkinson who featured in the famous Barbarians game of 1973 and one Darragh O'Mahony, who may be familiar to Moseley supporters. More recently England’s exciting second row prospect Maro Itoje played for the club.

This season Old Albanian have made a solid start, consolidating a mid table position following wins against Blaydon 3-35, Cambridge 34-36 and Rosslyn Park 18-13. Reversals have come from a creditable 17-18 loss at Ampthill, Plymouth Albion 40-13, Darlington Mowden Park 22-9 and Loughborough Students 26-35. With the last three results coming in their most recent games you can be sure the team will be focussed on turning around their fortunes at Billesley Common.

So far this season the team have looked towards the boot of wing/centre Chris May as a reliable source of points having scored 41 to date while back row Harry Bate is their leading try scorer with 4. Both players, along with hooker Matt Miles, were part of the England Counties successful summer tour to Canada, along with head coach James Shanahan. Shanahan, also playing fly half for the team, is no stranger to Billesley Common having played previously against Moseley eight times for Plymouth, Bedford and Exeter.

For Birmingham Moseley last weekend’s trip to London proved, as expected, a much sterner challenge than the 72-14 home win over Cambridge the week before. After a slow start, which saw Park race to a 10 point lead in the first ten minutes, Birmingham Moseley hit back with 24 unanswered points. They were however unable to draw further away as Park kept pegging them back to end the game chasing a draw just 7 points down. It was a hard earned 5 points the team bagged to remain second in the league. Of the positives to be taken from the day young fly half James Williams in only his second game picked up 21 points including 2 tries, in a man of the match performance.

This Saturday Birmingham Moseley will be looking to keep their home record intact and apply pressure to Hartpury at the top of the table. With an average to date of over 4 tries scored per game we should again be in line for some more entertaining rugby from the men in red and black.