An eagerly anticipated encounter between last year’s County Cup finalists with the added spice of a potential league clinching match for both sides, should have been a match to savour for players and spectators alike. Having been postponed once due to county training, it was the last chance for both sides to field their strongest teams as the weekends towards the end of the season rapidly disappear. Unfortunately further clashes and injuries left Stortford with a severely depleted and understrength side and with OAs almost at full strength, the end result had an inevitability about it from the kick off.
The conditions were very blustery and played a part in the game throughout with both teams trying to use it to maximum advantage. Throughout the morning the catching from the swirling kicks was excellent from both teams and testament to the skills level of both sides which has developed over the years.
After an indifferent, to say the least, start against Harpenden previously, it was essential for OAs to dominate from the start. A few blown chances with the final pass just going astray, it was the forwards who once again showed their strength and Adam at the base of a driving maul opened the scoring 0-5.
With instructions from the coaches to open things up and use the line, Tom L broke through and despite a bit of mid-field confusion rifled a pass to Harry who demonstrated a hitherto unknown juggling skills set to race to the corner and to complete his audition for the Moscow State Circus. 0-10. Tom L kicked a splendid kick into a strong wind 0-12.
From the restart OAs again took control and two charging runs from Harry and then Ollie J opened up the space for Charlie to nip into the corner once more. 0-17. An even better kick from Tom L with a little help from the crossbar 0-19 and OAs in cruise mode.
Rukh then got in on the act as yet again the forwards controlled the breakdown with consummate ease. Rukh brushed aside opposition like they were flies and made it an easily convertible try by Tom L for 0-26.
Stortford had shown immense bravery throughout the first half frequently outgunned in all departments. It was therefore only just reward for them to go over from close to the line following a penalty as OAs had one of those phases which they must eradicate from their game.
With the bonus point already in the bag this was about the win and OAs proceeded to make heavy weather of it as at the beginning of the second half a chip over was allowed to bounce and the fly half gathered his own kick to score in the corner. 10-26.
OAs suddenly looked a little concerned and seemingly let it bug them a bit which was not needed as they dominated possession and territory. A settling try was needed and it came from Rukh. A penalty close to the posts, resulted in an opportunistic tap from Tom L and there was no stopping Rukh from 5 metres out with Stortford in disarray. Tom L with the extras 10-33.
OAs now began to fully control proceeding as the battle-worn Stortford players tired and the holes opened up. A driving run from Harry resulted in the seas parting and unselfishly passed to Will R to go round under the posts. Tom L again with extras 10-40 and with them made way for Tom W at fly-half.
Rukh on the charge once more found space and he too unselfishly off loaded to Harry to jog round under the posts to present Tom W with the first of what were surely the easiest conversions he’ll have all season. 10-47.
Fittingly the last two tries belonged to the forwards whose speed and tenacity should never be under-estimated as the big units of Matt C and then Ryan H cut the Stortford defence to shreds. Matt has been threatening to go on a run for a long time and having picked up the ball on halfway steamed away to go under the posts. Tom W extras 10-54.
Ryan shrugging off a number of defenders again did the same from about the same distance proving indeed the forwards can play like backs with speed added to their undoubted strength. Tom W extras 10-61.
Sensibly with the score line at over 45 points difference, the coaches called it a day thus saving both sides from unnecessary injuries when a continuance would not contributed anything to the outcome.
All due thanks to Stortford and their club for allowing the fixture to be switched away from OAs and for their good sportsmanship and end of match hospitality. We wish them well and injury-free for their semi-final against Letchworth as OAs prepare for a match against new opposition in the guise of Hammersmith and Fulham as their quest for the League title continues.