OA's Put Away 14 Man Park
OA's produce remarkable turnaround against tough opponents
by James Mair
Following a productive preseason characterised by three wins from three under the watchful eye of a new coaching team of Mike Williams and Kieran Essex, OAs travelled to Charlton Park for the first competitive fixture of the season. A strong campaign from Park last year returned 4th place in LSE2 and a trip to Twickenham for the intermediate cup final so OAs were under no illusion of the task ahead. Selection headaches for the coaches led to a team sheet containing seven debutants – including Redvers Freeman starting at tighthead aged 18 – and James Mair taking the armband for the first time.
Park kicked off on a perfect day for running rugby and immediately pinned a nervous OAs back in their half through strong carries and defence. This pressure led to an attempt at goal which was pulled to the right by the park fly half. Another chance was gifted by OAs when trying to clear their lines and he duly made it 3-0. From here OAs slowly worked their way into the game but were having trouble interpreting the new tackle laws leading to a string of penalties to Park. The latest led to a lineout just outside the OAs 22. Park were penalised for blocking and the number 8 took exception to this and struck Sam Cornelius in the head. The referee was left with no option but a red card.
OAs now grew in confidence and started to dictate the play against Park’s 14 men. The concerted pressure led to a penalty which was converted by Josh Winduss. This good work was then undone by a defensive communication mishap which led to a try by the dangerous Park fullback. OAs now knew they needed to make the pressure tell and strong carrying from Max Rust led to another infringement duly punished by Josh Winduss. Park certainly had the edge in the tight areas but OAs had already shown how dangerous their back division could be through clean breaks by Gareth Wynne and Andy Conway. With half time beckoning these two combined excellently on the far right-hand side and veteran Gareth Wynne provided the finish. Josh Winduss couldn’t add the extras but the teams turned round with Alleynians leading 11-8.
The away side started the 2nd half with the same momentum. Ed Nethersole dictating play ensuring his teammates were always playing in the right areas. The penalty count for both sides was growing and Winduss had no problem punishing another infringement when a Park forward went off his feet. The resulting Park restart was gathered by Thomas Pickett and some smart interlink in midfield put Josh Wachman free down the right. The ball was shifted to Alasdair Henderson who was grabbed agonisingly short of the line. Smart ball retention led to captain James Mair being driven over. Josh Winduss added the extras and OAs were now rampant. More Park indiscipline allowed scrum half Henry Dewing to dive over under the posts for a seven pointer. 28-8.
The next twenty minutes was categorised by a Park renaissance. Huge credit must go to them for continuously fighting back with only fourteen men on the field. Narrow tight carries eventually exhausted the OAs defensive resolve leading to two scores. One converted which led to a scoreline of 28-20 with 10 minutes remaining. Park were now buoyant and OAs nerves returning. More Park pressure led to a converted penalty which brought them to within one score. These nerves then led to a no arms challenge by Phil Dibble punished by a yellow card. Park tapped the resulting penalty and a punishing ten plus phases later stoic OAs defence forced a knock on and a midfield scrum. Fly half Ed Nethersole decided to attack in pursuit of a bonus point. Slick hands by the three-quarter line moved it wide to last seasons player of the season Alasdair Henderson who rounded the fullback and finished under the posts leading to jubilation in the OAs ranks. Josh Winduss converted to complete a 35-23 victory.
Next week we open our home account against Horsham a team that have produced some very entertaining fixtures in the past.