Conway hattrick settles the score
By James Knox
OA's defeat Haywards Heath
It is unlikely that at level 7 rugby and in the middle of February the weather was going to play a part in the outcome of this fixture, but not quite as OA's had expected. With the sun shining bright and not a drop of wind or rain in the air it was poised to be the perfect conditions for two sides looking to regain some form. The pitch however had other ideas with rain water from earlier in the week meaning that despite the best efforts of the OAs groundstaff a change of pitch at the last minute was needed.
With a marginally delayed kick off the match got underway with both sides looking to run the ball when they had the chance. The opening exchanges led to a couple of penalties for OA's which at the first time of asking Josh Winduss stepped up and duly converted, 3-0. Haywards Heath soon came back at OA's and despite some promise in the first scrum of the day Haywards Heath responded and camped deep in the OA's half. The OA's defence led by an excellent back row unit performance meant OA's held out and then began to move the ball upfield and exert some pressure of their own.
On the 22 minute mark and after OAs had moved the ball wide, Ethan Allen found some space from 10 with a jinking break, offloading to home debutant prop Digby Parsons to score under the sticks. Josh Winduss did the rest, 10-0.
Haywards Heath then began to add more purpose to their play and after another extended period in the OAs 22 finally made the pressure tell from the back of the scrum. Conversion missed, 10-5. There was a confidence in the OAs backline that hadn't been seen for some time and with the forwards working hard around the park it was a question of could they make that pressure tell. Yes they bloody could. Jake Smith picked the ball up in midfield and with a slice of pure skill/luck managed to find returning winger Ali Henderson who collected the ball on the half way, glided 35m towards the line before offloading to Andy Conway to score his first of 3 tries. Conversion missed, the score was 15-5.
From the kick off OA's seemed in the mood to make the most of their dominance and scored their next try just 3 minutes later. This time a well worked move in the middle of the park gave Andy Conway some space and he duly took his chance for his second. Josh Winduss converted to take the score to 22-5.
Despite looking value for money OAs did what OAs have been too guilty of in recent years and let their opponents back into the game with a yellow card to Tom Shanahan for, apparently, pulling someone's hair. The ref later confirmed it was because of his botched kick clearance just moments earlier. A stewards enquiry perhaps? Regardless OA's found themselves down to 14 men just before half time. Haywards Heath sensed their opportunity and took their chance well after a cross field kick bounced kindly for their winger to score out wide, conversion missed. 22-10 and half time.
The second half again began brightly with Haywards Heath keen to make some early ground but the OA's defence became more resolute with their numerical disadvantage. After numerical parity was restored a penalty to OAs allowed Josh Winduss to punish Heath further, 25-10 and OAs looking in the mood to score more. Hard running from Tom Pickett, James Mair and skipper Charlie Thompson looked to get OAs on the front foot which led to OAs 4th and final try. This time the backs attacked with real venom and a perfectly weighted Jake Smith ball found Ali Henderson, who broke the tackle darted up the touchline and as he was tackled found the ideal pass to the onrushing Conway who completed his hattrick. Winduss converted, and OA's were well in control at 32-10.
With changes being made on both sides the game became a very back and forth affair for the rest of the second half until on 72 minutes Haywards Heath gave away another penalty which was stuck between the uprights to take the score to 35-10, and Josh Winduss's personal tally for the day to 15.
That was how the game was to end with Haywards Heath being kept from scoring in the second half, a brilliant achievement considering the score in the reverse fixture. This clearly was a different OA's side from that day and one that is back on track after a couple of defeats.
Another week off means even fresher legs when OA's find themselves at home to Pulborough on 3rd March, who they defeated 31-18 in the reverse fixture in November.