Last week’s opener against Hammersmith whilst it represented a positive start to the new campaign, left much to be improved in this Match Day 2 fixture when OAs took to the field to face Cheshunt. Cheshunt have always caused OAs a problem and it has always been difficult to fathom the reasons why. It was hoped that the struggles of previous seasons could be replaced by a convincing victory in a style which befits the OAs ethos.
The unexpected and much welcomed ‘Indian Summer’ of warm sunshine and a pitch which could not have been better, should have allowed OAs to play and exploit the width of the Saracens training pitch. With the changes being rung and players being rested to go alongside unavailabilities and injuries, this was another chance for A team fringe players and B team regulars to step up to the mark.
The game began well with the OAs forwards once again asserting themselves and winning good ball against a much-improved Cheshunt XV. The lineouts which had been a strength last week, creaked on occasion and needed the forwards to recover difficult ball. The back line had to battle for scraps last week and whilst placed under pressure, seemed to find more space in the expanse of grass and moved more freely on the close-cropped surface.
OAs struck first with the Forwards sucking in the Cheshunt defence to the right-hand side. Quick ball out of the ruck and then along the line meant a relatively easy dive over into the corner by Olli J. A superb conversion by Tom L and OAs were up 7-0 in the first 10 mins. A just reward for dominating the play to that point. OAs need to remember this game is relatively simple and with the speed at our disposal we should seek every opportunity to work the gaps!
OAs now began to exploit Cheshunt’s error and with the defence once again spread thin and lacking cover at full back, Harry chased down his own kick through for 12-0.
With every possibility of putting this match firmly to bed before half-time, OAs then began to revert to some of the old ways of the previous week and the decision-making and simplicity was replaced by a little bit of over-playing. This time Cheshunt did not punish OAs but other teams will. OAs scrapped in defence and sterling work by the second rows and flankers, turned over a Cheshunt attack allowing a break towards halfway by Charlie, an off-load to Harry and with a pinning back of his ears, out-sprinted the spirited but in vain efforts of the Cheshunt backs. 17-0.
Then we had our first yellow card of the season when Isaak was punished for what seemed a fairly innocuous and accidental challenge but deemed illegal. This stunted the OAs attack and some rapid reshuffling meant we had to go more defensive. Nevertheless, the covering was sufficient to see through to half-time.
Clearly wishing to give Cheshunt a helping hand, OAs took to the field with 14 men rather than the 15 they could have had as Isaak returned from the bin! A lesson to us all I think!
Cheshunt of old has always tended to collapse in the second half but the 2017 Cheshunt are altogether a fitter and more mobile unit, their counter rucking on the day was excellent and often the OA pack came of second best in the forward exchanges apart from the fantastic ball carrying of Hamish, its also fair to say that Cheshunt missed a few touchline kits after penalty awards and if they had been executed the final score line could have looked different.
OAs again dominated field position but far too many blind sides and white line fever moments meant a frustrating time for the backline who frequently outnumbered their opposites and definitely had the run of them.
Time for a cameo! Finally, the ball came to the back line and having worked it up the field, Isaak ducked, jinked and wove his way inside and out to go over. Bonus point secured and Tom L adding the extras. 24-0.
With the match secured, it was time to rest a few players, move others to alternative positions and rotate the bench to see the game out. Cheshunt sensing they might get something to take away at least, launched a series of attacks which deserved to be rewarded. However OAs’ defence is renowned for keeping teams out when a try seems inevitable. The referee, who had a solid game throughout, became tired of OAs’ persistent infringements and brandished the yellow card once more for a deliberate knock down – no question about that one Issak! But despite being reduced to 14 once more, the efforts of the remaining players to keep Cheshunt out was superb.
It finished 24-0 but it could have been so much more and much easier. Decision-making under pressure and often when not, will be the key to success this year and OAs now have a chance to use the forthcoming friendlies (a tough one against Westcliff on the horizon) to work on this ready for the tough fixtures which will end the year.
Last Sunday our forwards performance enable us to gain a victory, today our backs moved the ball with pace and flair and whilst not fully functioning did ensure that we secured the victory.
Match Day 2 finds OAs on top of the league with 10 points (a bizarre scenario with Hammersmith and a failure to register last week’s score, hopefully this will be resolved and corrected) whether we can stay there will depend on OAs’ ability to learn from the mistakes and continue to improve. The signs are it is coming together but only time and hard work will tell.