With what should have been a match to remember with the opportunity to secure the league, we all left early and trooped down to the wilds of Hammersmith and Fulham. Perhaps it would be best to begin with a quick summary of the highlights of the morning………..hmmm a bit stuck here! After considerable thought, the highlights were ………….. the sun shone and the journey there did not take as long as expected and to be honest they are about it. Oh and we won and regained the Herts Middx U15 League 1 title!
Upon arrival and despite pre match agreements we were advised that our opposition only had 13 fit players and no front row, given this was a League match and has an impact on other clubs really the match should have been conceded at this point particularly when it went down to uncontested scrums before we had even started. Then there was the pitch or more accurately, a building site given the sand, stone and rubble on the pitch originally allocated to us. After the referee had declared the pitch unsafe we switched to their first team pitch, which was almost as bad, but after further consideration the referee allowed the game to play, we of course respected his decision and his wish to get the game started given the journey we had made and the already delayed start.
The match went ahead and the all the boys made a good fist of playing at times some exciting rugby. The highlight of OAs’ play so far this season has been the work and dominance of the forwards and today that was completely negated including our driving maul by the circumstances and rule changes so it was time for the backs to take control and show their worth.
Rukh finally opened the scoring after about 10 mins as OAs suffered from severe doses of white line fever when the line beckoned. Tom’s chip over was gathered by Rukh who spun to dot down 0-5.
Huge spaces on the field encouraged a kicking game but perhaps this was a little too often and players were not always ready for the play. To their credit Hammersmith showed that if ever they could field a full team on a regular basis, they had ball carriers capable of causing serious damage. When possession was kicked away, their backs showed secure handling skills and broke well out of defence. Finally Ollie J who had a good game on the wing, broke down the left and with perfect timing released Harry to run half the pitch to go under the posts 0-12 Tom L with easy extras.
As OAs tightened the screws, turnovers began to happen more and more frequently and as the ball moved down the line, Hamish popped up and battled over 0-19 incl. Tom L extras.
Then in a sweeping move the ball went along the line and with an overlap, Harry released Ben Mc to run in the bonus point trying with a neat display of hurdling skills, 0-26 Tom L again with the extras.
Half-time, job done and really it was a case of finishing it off in style and going home early. Or at least that should have been the call. When Ollie J cut a terrific to run onto Tom L’s pop pass, it seemed on 0-33 Tom L adding the 2. Two more tries and an early bath for all.
OAs then started to lose a huge amount of focus and the plays became shoddy it also fair to say that our opponents used the modified rules to their advantage with backs lifted in the line out allow forwards to stand in the back line and a number 8 playing scrum half with no flankers allowed in uncontested scrums, frankly all a bit farcical really.
More sloppy play and poor passing began to typify OAs play but ironically from one scrappy pass in the OAs 22, Harry picked up the horribly bouncing ball, to skip through, find a gap and out-sprint the defence to place under the posts. 5-40 Tom L plus 2.
The remainder of the match was one, which OAs will want to forget! Dreadful defending, high tackles and loopy intercept passes, poor concentration and organisation leading to Hammersmith scoring 3 tries – yes 3 tries – which if only they had used the kicking tee would have given them a score line to savour ( or flatter them depending on your perspective), At times Hammersmith played some excellent rugby with their fly half having an outstanding game in the second half it was also clear that the OA boys had switch off not helped by the modified rule changes and the tactics of our opponents, the referee should however be applauded for keeping the game going and for officiating in fair and balanced manner throughout.
Final score 22-40 and OAs were League Champions once more.
There is still Hertford to play after Easter holidays, a tour for some to Ghent and finals day for all 3 OA’s Under 15 teams on the 23rd April with a County Cup final against Bishop Stortford.
Well done guys for what you have achieved, yes not a great game of rugby today but that shouldn’t detract from what has been a stunning League campaign populated with real team performances and entertaining running rugby, feel proud of your achievements but the season is not finished so let’s get the job done and bring the Cup back home once more.