A five hour drive does not well prepare one for possibly the worst first half of rugby in recent memory. But the vicious wind which blew obliquely across the field helped neither side, nor did it obscure the plethora of careless penalties recorded against the visitors as they ‘got the coach journey out of the system’! However OA defence was back in trim and the sting was gradually taken from a lively Barum attack.
However, even though Tom Mills enjoyed his trot to the right corner with a quarter hour gone and Dan Watt somehow allowed the treacherous breeze to guide his improving kick between the uprights, Barnstaple led 12-7 at the break courtesy of a penalty try and Ryan Lee’s smart effort which went unconverted.
Truth to tell Barnstaple had taken the majority of the available possession and had, for the most part kept listless OAs under the cosh in the first period and were worth the five point difference before the sides turned around. However lineout ball had been dependable, even given the conditions and the scrum had provided a worthwhile contest and mostly good possession. The backs, nicely marshalled by Watt, had even now given evidence of things to come
The state of the encounter changed decidedly immediately on the restart as the Albanian pack, finally fired after their first half torpor, tore through a Barnstaple defence which had become somehow desperate. Chris West, Mike Bond and the irrepressible Obina Nkwocha led this second half assault and quietened the noisy support from probably the most sporting spectators in this league.
West charged over for the first of the half seven minutes in and the conversion offered no problem to Dan Watt who crossed next just three minutes later, not quite managing to improve his own try. Still in the third quarter Ben Chadwick arguably put the match out of the reach of game opponents who now faced a twelve point deficit.
Watt and Alex Noot made sure they kept the attention of the large band of visiting supporters with two more sparkling efforts, the latter as the match ended with the fly half’s third conversion.
This has always been a highly talented squad. It needs to be since over half of it is currently sidelined for one reason or another. This afternoon demonstrated what is possible when care and attention is added to fitness and flair, even for thirty minutes. Coaches and players can build on their own example and look forward to the remainder of the season with great anticipation.