In the Bleak Mid Winter
By Bagin Unwin
The morning was crisp on Dulwich common as the groundsmen frantically tried to recover the top two inches of thawed ground on the pitches....they succeeded (in places). The OAs warmly welcomed a top of the league and unbeaten Dartfordians team and with fresh legs and clear heads following a week off, and the boys had a point to prove after a very disappointing loss two weeks prior.
The early exchanges saw the OAs pinned close to their try line and after some lacklustre penalty giveaways, Dartfordians kicked for the corner and shifted a very effective driving line out over for the first try. They failed to convert. 5-0. The OAs scrum was on the back foot early on and became subject to numerous dubious penalty decisions as crys of 'let the boys play ref' could be heard from the crowds of Past OAs gathering on the sideline. This said another penalty found Dartfordians back with a line out on the OAs five meter line and despite defending the line out well, the OAs were undone with some poor defence around the fringes. 10-0. Six minutes on the clock. The outlook was appearing bleak and morale seemed lower than a worms belly.
The OAs finally managed to string some phases together and looked like a class outfit in both attack and defence. Butch 'Boot salesman of the year' Hanyane with some outstanding work at the breakdown securing an OAs penalty which they kicked for the corner and drove over, Butch with ball in hand for a deserved try. Birthday boy Josh Winduss failed to convert and the score remained 10-5.
Dartfordians came back at us however and after 10 minutes of outstanding defensive work the OAs were sadly undone outwide and the visitors went over in the corner. 15-5.
With ball in hand again after the kickoff the OAs built multiple phases and applied pressure in the Dartfordians half. Sadly some more suspect refereeing decisions around the scrum area gave possession back to the away team and despite outstanding defence from the likes of Andy Conway, Rich Brown and Charlie Thompson, the scrum decisions let us down and Dartfordians were awarded a 7 point penalty try.
The OAs stuck at it and and built multiple phases before captain James Mair to gracefully dive over in the corner. Another failed conversion saw us go into the break trailing 22-10.
The second half began with both teams exchanging possession but Dartfordians came out on top following an OAs penalty close to our line. Flanker Max Rust was sent to the sinbin and the away team bagged three points. The boys came back at them and with some heavy carries from the pack into the Dartfordians strong defensive line, the way was paved for wing Joe Stephens to slide his way under the sticks. Josh Winduss would covert for his 100th Point for the OAs, a fine achievement. 25-17.
The following 30 minutes saw some of the finest display of grit in both attack and defence shown by an OAs side in recent times. Sustained pressure by Dartfordians on the OAs line truly separated the men from the boys but the OAs came out without conceding further. Luck was on their side after a strong Dartfordians scrum looked like a certain try, only for the number 8 to fumble the ball over the line...hands like a digital clock.
The home side then managed a period of pressure themselves and with 5 minutes remaining in the clock, Dartfordians conceded a penalty and the decision was made to go for the losing bonus point and Josh Winduss kicked the 3 points to put the OAs within five. As the game neared its conclusion there was to be one final twist as confusion between the Dartfordian scrum half and referee saw them kick the ball out before time was up. Would the OAs sneak victory from the jaws of defeat...Short answer, No. The line out overthrown and Dartfordians regained possession to boot the ball out and win a gripping game by 25-20.
Credit goes to the outstanding effort of the OAs front row Butch Hanyane, Matt Power and the returning Charlie Thompson for putting in an incredible full 80.