National League 2 South
Man of the match:
For a disinterested observer this was a Saturday to be out of the non-stop rain and watching the sporting world online or on terrestial. For OA and Rams fans this was absorbing, fraught and ultimately a game of rugby none would have missed for the world.
Not that the first half promised a lot. It was mostly OAs right from the first whistle and despite their heavier pack, the Rams struggled to retain any possession won. There were two reasons for this; firstly, OAs midfield tackled and jackalled the ball away from their opposition, secondly for all their height and presence the Rams seemed at sea at the line-out and coughed up welcome ball all afternoon for OAs to use. However, there were ominous signs that the set-piece was going to go Rams’ way and this contributed to a high penalty count against OAs and, ultimately, a penalty try close to the end of the second half as Rams made one of their rare visits to the OA try line.
Wing Alexander Ricci added to a Dan Watt penalty on 28 minutes with a lightning interception of a fluffed Rams pass and a thirty yard unhindered dash saw the score into double figures as Tom Bednall failed to convert. Bednall was luckier with a penalty just on the psychological stroke of half time and with just a penalty from Rams’ Richardson to show for their muted efforts the score stood at 13 – 3.
The turning point in the match just after half time was a breathtaking piece of interpassing between Ricci and full back Alex Noot which left the Rams defenders looking at their boots as Noot raced in from 35 yards. This superb try, although unimproved by Bednall, seemed to stiffen Rams’ resolve to get back into the game at all costs and with it a number of niggly incidents occurred which resulted in OAs hooker, Jamie Townsend, undergoing an enforced ten minutes rehab in the technical area. Would there be enough time for him to retake the field was the question and if you looked to referee, Tim Allet, the answer was ‘plenty’.
This half lasted for nearly one whole hour and was indicative of the tension which had broken out between the players. Curiously, on one of Rams’ rare organized assaults on the OA line, Allet saw fit to award the away side a penalty try after what appeared to be just two ruck balls, both of which were being comfortably looked after by the visitors. However, the relentless defence and never-say-die OA spirit took a deserved four points from the encounter.
For those of us there dreaming of a primrose path leading back to the sunlit uplands of National League One, a glance at the resultant league table will provide a rude awakening. OAs have played four and won three but so, also, have SIX other sides, so we lie no better than fifth in the table after bonus points and points differences have been calculated. One place below us and with the same win profile are next week’s opponents, Tonbridge Juddians. An interesting trip to Kent on Saturday awaits, 3pm KO, all travelling support would be much appreciated!!
Team – Hughes, Townsend, Chamnaoui, Napier, Illston, Brown, Barlett, West, Thompson, Bednall, Ricci, Watt, Holdsworth, Bridger, Noot
Subs – Martinez, Bond, Stevens, Munday, Gliksten
Tries – Ricci, Brown
Conversions – Bednall
Penalties – Bednall x2