The old OA's give way to the new
by Patrick Stuff
“It always seems impossible until it's done” (Nelson Mandela).
Certainly that was how it felt, was it the old OA’s or the new OA’s? Storm Brian had rolled in early on Saturday morning and was proving to be a ferocious test. A bi-product of the storm meant it was, as the old cliché goes: A game of two halves.
OA’s began the game with the assistance of Brian, which helped Josh Winduss’s “National 1 boot” (Mikey Williams, 2017) thump the ball repeatedly into the Dover half. Excellent pressure in the lineout from Josh Wachman and Tom Pickett proved too much for the Dover hooker and Dover lineout ball was stolen a record seven times. The dominance in the set piece was also seen in the scrum. The ever present Butch Hanyane and bulldozing Cameron Saunders provided a solid base at the scrum even as Dover brought on tremendously sizeable prop in the second half for “10 minutes of power and impact”. This went against Dover and was a disappointing 10 minutes, we’ve all been there.
So like an old school Leicester tigers team, circa 2007, the set piece laid the platform for the new look back line to play. Joue Joue!!! And play they did. Tackles were bust, defenders beaten and tries were scored. The first came rather fortuitously for Andy Conway. With Josh Winduss's National 1 boot in full flow he kicked the ball straight into Conway's hands (via a charge down) which he cleaned up and ran through to score. The two OA’s centres ran well all game and provided plenty of go forward. Elsewhere in the backline, OA’s benefitted from the calm head of Jake Smith at the back who provided a protective voice in a blustery day. It was an emotional day for the South African as it was a year on from his horrific hip injury against Crowborough. The emotion didn’t get the better of him (apart from one skewed kick) and he put in a top notch performance.
Dover broke, they broke again as a few lagging defenders forgot to tackle. But alas, that's rugby. The A’s bounce back and probed the Dover try line. And like diamonds, pressure produced results.
Then the driving lineout came, reminiscent of the Springboks. Patrick Stuff was the controller with the ball as he used the power of the pack to score a well worked try and an excellent conversion from Josh Winduss followed. Tom Pickett proved to be a man of many talents, and can now add “Keeping a ball still on a tee” to that list.
OA’s went into halftime with a lead of 15 points, would it be enough?
Coming out after half time, fuelled with sugar from Dave and Butch’s dodgy tablets, the boys were flying. However any forward momentum was having to fight hard against Brian who was now causing carnage. Normal 40m kicks became 80m monsters, much reminiscent of Francois Steyn at altitude.
The second half started strong, with a line break from Josh Winduss, offloading to Henry Dewing to score under the posts. It seemed easy. Had the OA’s finally moved on from the old ways? Not quite. Were we on a come down from butch’s tablets? Very likely.
Sustained pressure and mental lapses let Dover back into the game as they scored a few tries to get back within 3 points. This left a nervy final part of the game. What then played out must have been a great sight for the OA’s coaches and one for the purist. Ball under jumper vibes. It was time to close out the game with control. Pick and go was the order of the day. Joue Joue firmly buried deep under the uneven pitch, this was a time for calm heads. Step up the pack, who had carried well all day and needed to empty the tank to secure an important W. John Malavoir (1995 vintage) controlled from the base. The boys were almost there.
But wait, the ball was dropped. The Dover 15 picked the ball up, stepped past the flat footed Patrick Stuff and Butch Hanyane. Away he went. However for some reason he kicked the ball away and into touch. Moron. Full time whistle.
The OA’s players were notably relieved and were able to come through a day of tough conditions and a decent opposition. At times it felt the old OA’s was ready to emerge, but the lads kept it at bay. This was the start of the second block of fixtures, which could propel Old Alleynians towards the top of the table if further victories follow. Stay tuned, stay safe and remember: rugby is always the winner.