OAs Return To Winning Ways
By James Knox
by Josh Wachman
On an autumn afternoon in West Sussex, the team bounded off the coach eager to make amends for last week’s disappointing performance and to escape the Eau de Fitzpatrick. There was an element of the unknown surrounding newly-promoted Pulborough who sat second bottom in the league, but had beaten a Haywards Heath side who had drummed the OAs 36-0 the week prior. Would the new OAs have the character to bounce back and win against an unfamiliar foe?
OAs founded themselves hamstrung in the early exchanges most of which was self-inflicted. Some poor handling errors in the backline meant the ball in OAs’ hands had the same life expectancy as an MP in the Westminster Scandal. This coupled with some equally dismal discipline meant Pulborough took a three-point lead.
This was the proverbial rocket-up required. The OAs responded with some robust defence with the black and blue scrum-cap respectively of Patrick Stuff
and Joshua Wachman particularly noticeable. Pulborough were driven back and soon the OAs found themselves with a scrum 5-metres from their opponent’s line. Led by front-row Cameron Saunders
, Phil Dibble
and John Lineham the OAs drove the scrum forward leaving captain James Mair
to dot the ball down for a try.
Positive attacking play from both sides saw the ball ping pong between 22s with Pulborough ultimately capitalising with three-points following some ill-discipline at the breakdown. OAs again responded well with young pup Harry Rix
and returning crowd-favourite Ali Henderson
turning the ball over from the restart. The away team then proceeded to execute the high tempo game plan giving veteran Jake Smith
the space required to score a much-deserved try.
The game continued in its high-octane manner with Pulborough the beneficiary as they charged down a kick that led to a try. Off the subsequent restart, the gift was returned by Pulborough with Andy Conway
pouncing on a handling error and converting it into a score. An offcut for both parties in quick succession; rugby is not always a cruel mistress. The remaining period before half-time saw continued powerful defence from the OAs, including a North-Folau double tackle led by Dave Minear, and some delightful breaks from FOAC Josh Winduss
and POAC Tom Pickett
. However, the OAs were unable to convert and only had a four-point lead going into half-time.
The second half continued in much the same positive manner as the first half. This included an early break by Pulborough winger only to fall untouched in a similar dramatic fashion to Gemma Collins’ onstage tumble. The home team continued to exert pressure with dangerous runs from their back three and an audacious cross-field kick to their number eight. This was to no avail as the OAs absorbed the pressure and with a period of much improved discipline meant no points were conceded.
The game then ebbed in OAs favour and a marvellous try ensued. Sam Fitzpatrick expertly picked the ball up from his laces and gave a one bounce pass to Jake Smith
who offloaded to a charging Luke Sullivan
who offloaded to Andy Conway
who gave a “Sonny Bill” to prop Jon Lineham
who passed back to Luke for a try. A shoe-in for the Samsung Try of the Month.
A handful of penalties followed and Pulborough were gifted a lineout deep in the OAs’ 22. Henry Dewing
put in a vital tackle aided by Cameron Saunders
driving Pulborough into touch and allowing OAs to clear their lines. The ill-discipline finally took its toll with Pulborough making a break and full back Jake Smith
making a rugby league-esque tackle for which he was given a yellow card. No blushes were spared as Pulborough then threw a miss pass straight from the ensuing penalty to score a try and reducing OAs’ lead to six-points.
In the final encounters, the introduction of Richard Garrett
and Raj Ghosh
gave added impetus and helped OAs take control of the game. With strong carries supported by equally strong rucking it meant the away team could exert a long period of pressure near the Pulborough try-line. Captain James Mair
decision to opt for the scrum paid dividend when after a period of phases 90+ capper Tom Pickett
scored a pick-and-go for his customary one try per season.
Poor discipline made the afternoon harder work than it needed to, but nonetheless a great bonus-point win away from home. The OAs now look expectantly on to Barking where they hope to secure their fifth win and finish Block Two with more wins than losses. This would be no mean feat given the club is mid-way through a turnaround programme led by Mikey Williams, Kieran Essex and James Knox. With three excellent wins across the clubs this weekend showing strength in depth, a bright future lies ahead. Ubi concordia, ibi Victoria.