Unfortunately Old Grammarians (OGs) could only muster 11 players but as they had made the journey from North London it was agreed that the match would go ahead as a friendly with OAs awarded a walkover for the purposes of the League. OAs lent Leon and Kieran to OGs and the match kicked off with OAs playing into a stiff breeze with 14 players against OGs 13.
OAs started brightly and from a knock on from an OGs lineout were awarded a scrum on the OGs 22. A solid effort from the pack enabled clean ball to be fed quickly to Jaiden at inside centre who cut back against the grain and evaded the OGs defence to open the scoring. Ollie’s difficult conversion fell just short – 5-0 to OAs.
OGs were making use of the wind advantage with clever kicking to push OAs back into their own 22 and establish a good attacking position from where they put OAs defence under severe pressure. OAs held firm and were extremely relieved when the ball eventually went dead and the referee signalled a 22 drop out.
OAs were trying hard to bring their strong running centres into the game but several promising moves were thwarted by excellent tackling from the OGs backs. OGs were then able to take advantage of an OAs infringement in their own half to shift the ball quickly to their winger who rounded the OAs covering defence to touch down in the corner for an unconverted try.
OAs soon regained the lead courtesy of Jaiden whose mazy running again proved too much for the OGs defence. 10-5 to OAs.
Encouraged by this success OAs continued to press for a further score and when a powerful run by Sheldon was halted deep in the OGs 22, good anticipation by Thomas G saw him in the perfect position to receive the offload and dive over for OAs third try which was duly converted by Ollie.17-5 to OAs.
Despite playing into a strong breeze OAs continued to dominate field position and possession and were rewarded with a further try after a strong run from Thomas G was stopped just short of the line and George W was on hand to snaffle the loose ball and crash over.
With the half time score 22-5 to OAs it was decided to give OGs a further player as OAs would be playing into the breeze with 13 players against OGs 14.
OAs were caught napping from the restart and were soon on the back foot in their own 22. A good break from Leon and an excellent pass saw OGs in under the posts with only a couple of minutes of the second half gone.
This seemed to act as a wake up call for OAs and a powerful run by Rakin took play to just outside the OGs 22. The ball was well presented at the breakdown enabling quick recycling to Jaiden who powered over in the corner for his hat trick.27-12 to OAs.
Although playing with the wind the intensity of OAs game seemed to drop with handling errors and tackles missed that were being made in the first half. Leon capitalised with another strong run and offload to put OGs over in the corner.
OAs were still enjoying plenty of possession but were unable to capitalise due to the errors that were creeping into their game. OGs could sense that an unlikely victory could be theirs and pressed hard for another score which duly came when Leon picked up from the back of a five metre scrum to crash over for a converted try. 27-24 to OAs.
By now the momentum was fully with OGs and further concerted pressure resulted in another try to give them a two point lead with a couple of minutes remaining.
OAs were handed a lifeline when from the restart OGs were penalised for crossing just outside their 22. Instead of opting for a scrum OAs went for the higher risk strategy of kicking to the corner for a lineout. Unfortunately the lineout ball could not be secured cleanly and OAs were penalised trying to recover possession thus ending their chance of victory.
A disappointing outcome for OAs who had played excellently for large parts of the match only to be let down by a drop in intensity and concentration for 10 minutes. However, plaudits should go to OGs for a spirited and committed performance.
Unlike some games this season there was very little to choose between the teams in size and ability and it would be good to see a rematch in the future.