OLD ALBANIAN 5 CANTERBURY 19
After easing to a decent lead with three first half tries Canterbury had to call on all their defensive tenacity to keep their promotion play-off ambitions on course.
This was always likely to be a tricky fixture and Albanians second half rally exposed the pressures the city club are under with two other sides breathing down their necks.
They survived the onslaught despite collecting two yellow cards and losing fly half Harvey Young to a shoulder injury but were shielded from the worst by their domination of the first forty minutes and a refusal to bend.
The game went into the second quarter before Canterbury managed to crack Albanians with a try. Up to that point nerves had showed as they failed to punish errors and put away chances so it was a relief when the backs worked space for Ricky Mackintosh and Young landed a difficult conversion.
They had to wait until the final two minutes of the half before there were further returns for all their positive work and it was the pack that did the necessary. A series of pick and drives ended with skipper Sean Stapleton getting the second touchdown and, in the last play before the break, Tristan King was on the end of a lineout catch and drive. With Young departing with an injury that could end his season Ollie Best converted the Stapleton score.
Everything seemed set up for a Canterbury bonus point win but that discounted the Albanians revival after the break. It was the home side’s turn to control possession and look to punish the city side’s errors. Their bench replacements brought fresh energy and only tackling of the highest order denied them more than one score. As the pressure built Tom Best headed for the sin bin and Albanians soon created a try for Dan Watt. Even when Best returned there was more trouble as Sam Rogers was handed ten minutes in the cooler. However, Canterbury have the second best defensive record in the league and now they showed why as they refused to be broken. That huge commitment was sorely needed because they never rediscovered the art of attack.
Canterbury: O. Best, R.Mackintosh, B.Neville, T.Best, C.Grimes, H.Young (repl S.Sterling), D.Smart (repl K.Braithwaite), A.Cooper (repl E,Lusher), T.King (repl L.Whetton), S.Kenny (repl (A.Wake-Smith), R.Cadman, M.Corker, S.Rogers, S,Stapleton, J.Stephens