OAs approached this match with a degree of trepidation as they remembered the two matches last season where they had struggled to cope with the physical challenge posed by a large and strong Watford team. The damp conditions appeared to favour Watford whose large pack would probably seek to keep the ball tight whereas OAs would try to play a more expansive game to capitalise on the greater mobility of their team.
OAs started brightly and from the off it was apparent that their defensive line speed was causing Watford problems and forcing handling errors enabling OAs to enjoy the majority of early possession.
The first scoring opportunity fell to OAs when a strong run by Ryan was stopped just short of the Watford line. Unfortunately, in their keenness to secure quick ball at the breakdown OAs were penalised for going off their feet enabling Watford to clear the danger.
Watford were now enjoying more possession and were trying to gain ground by using their large pack to power down the centre of the field. This was met by fantastic first up tackling by OAs which meant that Watford were unable to establish any good attacking positions in the OA 22.
OAs were gaining in confidence and were rewarded when turnover ball was shipped quickly to Will who crashed over for the opening score which was well converted by Ollie. 7-0 to OAs.
OAs should have increased their lead minutes later when they were camped close to the Watford line and could not capitalise on a three man overlap with the final pass going astray. Matters got worse for OAs when Watford took advantage of the first missed tackles of the morning to cross for a converted try. 7-7 at half time although OAs had enjoyed the majority of possession and territory.
The second half started badly for OAs when the long restart kick was knocked on by OAs deep in their 22. Again, OAs defended well but were penalised 5 yards out. The Watford tap penalty appeared to have been fumbled but the ball was regathered and with OAs being guilty of not playing to the whistle Watford touched down easily. 14-7 to Watford.
OAs felt aggrieved by the award of the try and this could easily have had a detrimental effect on their game. It is to their great credit that they immediately recovered the ball from the restart and good lines of running and a well timed pass released Will whose arcing run enabled him to evade the Watford defence and fly over in the corner. 14-12 to Watford with 10 minutes to go.
Despite having a disadvantage in both height and weight the OAs pack were matching their counterparts in all areas of the game due to their greater mobility and good scrummaging technique. Because of the pressure from the OAs pack Watford had conceded numerous penalties at the breakdown and it was no surprise when OAs were awarded another penalty just outside the Watford 22.
As captain, Ollie backed himself to kick for goal and coolly stroked the ball over to give OAs a 15-14 lead going into the final 5 minutes.
The OAs supporters nerves were starting to fray as obviously any Watford score would put them back in front.
Gathering the restart cleanly has been a problem all season and OAs were greatly relieved when the long Watford kick rolled over the try line enabling Sheldon to dot down for an OAs 22 drop out. OAs recovered possession and another strong run by Jaiden saw OAs take play to the Watford 22. A neat chip by George W had the Watford full back scrambling back to his try line and when it seemed that he was unable to gather the ball it appeared that a following OAs player was able to touch down. Initially OAs appeared to have been awarded a try, much to the annoyance of Watford, but the referee then changed his decision and awarded a 5 yard scrum to OAs.
Crucially the pack were able to lock out the scrum enabling Ollie to pick up cleanly and scamper over from short range. The conversion was crucial as it would give OAs an 8 point lead with a couple of minutes remaining. Ollie duly slotted the conversion and the OAs support could finally start to relax.
The final 2 minutes saw further resolute defence to deny Watford any further scores and the final whistle was greeted with jubilation by OAs.
A fantastic effort by every member of a team that thoroughly deserved their victory. Praise should also go to Martin and Trevor whose efforts have resulted in a huge improvement in the team’s defensive capabilities and also a back line who look dangerous whenever in possession.