With the Division One title secured, it was now down to the last game of the season away at Hertford RFC to see if the boys can go the whole season without losing a game.
This game was rescheduled to the final day of the season, and as such OA’s were faced with an availability crisis with 10 first team players declared unavailable due to holidays and academy training. The decision was made to call up players from the C Team and not promote B players who had a crucial league match on the same day.
And so a squad of just 15 fit players including 7 boys from the C Team, lined up to play a full strength Hertford A Team looking to secure their middle table position in Division One.
Right from the start it became apparent that this was going to be an evenly contested game, with the added players to squad demonstrating that they had both the ability and determination to hold their own against, on paper higher ability opposing players.
The game itself remaining close throughout the first half with OA’s scoring first and then maintaining a one score advantage until half time.
With the second half to come, the feeling was with a slight wind advantage as well as the hill the boys could hopefully pull away. Hertford had other ideas; as the boys started to run out energy it was clear our opponents were getting on top in terms of field position, ultimately they levelled the scores. Whilst the OA boys never stopped trying, tackles started to be missed and some decisions within the back line added pressure rather than relieved it.
Eventually this pressure told and Hertford managed to gain a points advantage with just 2 minutes left to play. OA’s also suffered a double blow of a yellow card. With time almost out, OA’s restarted with 14 players on the pitch and 5 points behind.
What followed was a monumental effort from all 14 boys. First to recover the ball and then drive deep into the Hertford 22 who were struggling to repel the direct and aggressive running of each OA ball carrier. Each carry inched the boys closer to the Hertford line, the forwards repeatedly secured the ruck ball and then the try line beckoned!
With one last ruck ball secured, the ball moved along the line and over we went only to be held up by an immediately awarded high tackle. And so the last few seconds of the season fell to the referee to make a brave decision and award a penalty try to OA’s, leaving the scores level at 25-25. Up stepped Tom W to slot the conversion with the full time whistle blown immediately after, final score Hertford 25 – OA’s 27
And that was that, perhaps the one of the best performances of the season for the A team was their last of the season and ironically with 50% of the normal team absent. Firstly immense credit should go to the regular ‘A’ Team players who guided and supported their C Squad teammates throughout the match; their support and leadership was hugely significant and mirrored the same U15 camaraderie that had been demonstrated the week earlier in the County Finals.
But the last word must go to those 7 x C Team players who lifted their individual game to such a level that no one who watched this game could differentiate them from the other Division One players on the pitch.
Boys well done you collectively did our age group proud!!