Following the poor performance last week in the league match against Hitchin the B’s were quickly back in action and they couldn’t have asked for a better or harder test than London Irish who OA’s have started to build a strong relationship at both A and B team level.
Numbers were down due to a combination of injuries and County training so Adam, Sean, Tom W, Will and Ben stepped in to bolster the ranks although we still only had the one sub. On the sidelines Kev had the experience of Dave to ensure the pre-match drills were more intense albeit the attempt to get the boys match-ready was being tested by the enthralling C-team Cup Semi-final being played out.
When the C’s came off the usual pristine pitch all smiles celebrating their victory we stepped on with more purpose than the previous Sunday. The weather conditions were also much better, well to start with anyway, before rain on and off during the game ensured a greasy ball through the large part of the game.
This was a hard thought game and every boy had to dig deep into their reserves. The pleasing aspects were the commitment, passion, team work and effort levels were significantly higher. This started from the first whistle and never dropped throughout. The forwards were strong, were getting to the set piece, executing good clear out and now controlling the rucks ensuring Tom was getting good ball for the backs to play.
London Irish had a well drilled high press defence so we had to be good on the ball and in the main we were. Tom W’s long and accurate box kicks often getting us out of danger areas while Will at fly-half played there like he had all his life ensuring both a good passing and kicking game. Will was also impressive with ball in hand and running at the opposition and opened the scoring in the first half noticing a rare gap in the defensive line and exploiting this to run in from around 30 metres out to ground under the posts. His conversion made it 7-0.
Opportunities were far and few between given the strong defences on both sides. OA’s were often being pushed back as the Irish fly half used his good kicking skills to push them forward while Jake, Matt and Ben were having to show their strong defensive skills as much as their running ability. However, the first blight on the OA’s copy book was a yellow for James who had a brain lapse thinking he was back in his martial arts whites rather than his OA’s kit and received a 7 minute spell on the sidelines following an ‘unorthodox’ tackle. Effort levels were stepped up in the period being one man short and rarely did it look like we had 14, however, a sustained period of pressure before half-time from Irish paid off with the runner breaking through tackles to get a try back with the conversion levelling the scores at the break at 7-7.
The second half followed the pattern of the first. The forwards were again being asked to put in an immense effort. Adam was showing his leadership skills marshalling a couple of very good rolling mauls. Jack, George and Tommy in the front row really got their game together and having suffered being pushed back in the early stages were holding their own in the scrum and also doing plenty of the unnoticed ‘dirty work’ around the edges. They were ably supported by Alex, Antony, Feds and Oscar who tackles as only Oscar can.
The standout player, however, was Lachlan, who had miraculously recovered from his ‘broken ankle’ last week! Asking to come off at half-time due to tiredness Kev told him to give it another 5-10 mins and then we saw a player possessed who was everywhere and really leading from the front and it wasn’t long before he got his rewards. Jack had gone on one of his runs where he then gets enveloped in half the team who still struggle to stop him going forward. This developed into a maul and then Lachlan was there with the power and the finishing touch to get the ball over the line. Will then converted the extras with a very good kick no more than 10 metres in from touch.
The game was far from over and Irish were not going down without a fight. They threw everything at us. We repelled 5m lineouts, a few penalties in our own half and the powerful running of not only their forwards but also their strong inside centre. We were fortunate in one instance when the referee penalised an Irish player for swearing when there was a 2-1 overload in their favour in the corner. A harsh lesson maybe but certainly a good one for all on the pitch as such language simply cannot be tolerated.
We managed to hold out and win 14-7 but the real winner was the game of rugby. Despite the conditions all players from both sides gave a very good account of themselves. Results are tangible but it is these types of games that show the development and maturity of players which is a greater yardstick for the coaches. From our perspective we showed the character to bounce back after such a meek performance at Hitchin. In this respect the bar has now been set for the players for the remaining games.
We would like to thank London Irish for travelling up from South-West London and once again providing such great opposition and a competitive fixture from the first to the last whistle. Credit must also go to the referee who officiated the game superbly throughout and was key to such an enjoyable game, not forgetting the rampaging Henry with his flag up the touchline and Corrine whose magic sponge ensures the boys are well looked after.