The Rosslyn Park Festival had been rescheduled from last November due to bad weather, and after a new year marked by the cold and rain it was great for the boys to be out playing again. It was raining lightly as we arrived but as we began to warm up the rain stopped and the sun even managed to appear. It was to be a good omen.
Our first match was against hosts Rosslyn Park and after battling our way through the west London traffic and finding a parking place we managed to have a full team (just) to get things underway. From the kick off, the OA boys were keen and committed, putting in some good tackles and rucking enthusiastically. In attack, however, we weren’t moving the ball effectively and there was some loose passing. Things began to settle down, and after some good interplay the boys managed to move the ball through the hands to score the first try of the match. Then from a great kick at the restart, backed up by a fantastic chase, we managed to pin Rosslyn Park on their own line. OAs turned the ball over to score and it was 2 tries in 2 minutes. After catching our hosts on the hop, Rosslyn Park re-grouped and a tight battle ensued with OAs scoring another try in the second half to win 3-0, in a tougher game than the scoreline indicated.
After a tough first match, the boys were a bit slow out of the blocks for the second match against Windsor RFC, however when they started to run hard and straight on to the ball however, things began to click and Windsor struggled to cope with this power game. The tries were shared around as OAs ran out 8-0 winners. It was at this point our last player arrived to big cheers and we now had a reserve.
The third match was against Sutton & Epsom and after the previous two matches the boys’ confidence was high. That confidence probably meant we played too much as individuals and tried to score from every phase with players cutting back inside, rather than running straight or passing the ball wider with several big overlaps not being taken advantage of. There was some great defence on the last play of the game when Sutton & Epsom were awarded a free pass 10 yards out but the boys maintained their defensive line and the attack faltered into touch. The final result was 6-0 to OAs and meant we were through to the semi-final.
This brought us up against Battersea Ironsides, a team who none of us were familiar with, but who certainly lived up to their name in this must-win clash. They were tough, tackled hard and completely committed to the rucks. This was a big wake up call for the boys after the previous two matches and after failing to make any progress through the middle, the boys looked to move the ball through the hands.
By exploiting the space out wide, this change in tactics eventually paid dividends and OAs began to exert some control wining a closely fought and niggly contest 3-0. This proved to be the toughest match so far but we were through to the final.
It took some time to figure out who the other finalist would be, but eventually our old friends from the group stages, Rosslyn Park arrived on the pitch, having overcome the winner of the other group in their semi-final.
Having already enjoyed success against Rosslyn Park in the group stages, OAs were in buoyant mood, but they soon realised Rosslyn Park wouldn’t be so easily overcome in this rematch. What ensued was a closely fought contest, with the two teams only being separated by a breakout try to OAs who led 1-0 at half-time.
OAs showed their dominance in the second half with most of the action close to the Rosslyn Park tryline. With two minutes to go it looked like OAs had scored the winner, but the ball was grounded just short of the line. From the resulting scrum, OAs won the ball, moved it to the middle of pitch and from a quick ruck spread it wide for a great team try to win the match 2-0 and the festival.
A big thank you must go to our hosts Rosslyn Park and their never-say-die spirit to make their way to final the long way around. Also, thank you to the parents who took on the challenge of London traffic and parking. However, we must save the biggest thanks to the boys themselves who all played brilliantly with every player making a great contribution – to win the festival and have no tries scored against you in five matches is a great achievement. Well done boys!