RUGBY: Oaks secure a one point win over Tring – but President’s lunch and carols prove to be the highlights of the day
Sevenoaks Rugby 7 Tring RFC 6
Sevenoaks Rugby Club 1st XV welcomed Tring RFC to the Paddock on Saturday for their final home game of 2019. The match was preceded by the annual Vice Presidents lunch, with nearly 100 supporters dining in the Clubhouse.
With this match marking the half way point in the league fixtures, Oaks have made a solid start to life in London Premier, with Adam Bowman’s side sitting in mid table, with six wins and the one draw, whilst the visitors, who finished fourth in the league last season, were sat three places below.
If the healthy crowd were looking for a Christmas cracker, then in all honesty they would have been better off spending the afternoon looking down the ‘seasonal’ aisle at their local supermarket. A classic this was not.
With heavy rain having fallen the previous two days, both sides were handicapped by an extremely heavy pitch, particularly in between the 10-metre lines and whilst there was attacking endeavour by both, the conditions took its toll and players found it difficult to get a foothold.
That said, Oaks could also be found guilty of some sloppy ball handling at times and in the first half failed to build up any real pressure, posing no threat to Tring’s try line during the first stanza.
With half time approaching, Tring garnered a penalty and their full back produced probably the highlight of the half when he stroked over a difficult attempt in the conditions to give his side a 3-0 lead at the break.
Despite the best efforts of both sets of players, the second half was much like the first, with rare sparks or line breaks, although it must be said Oaks were starting to look the more threatening with both scrum half Holmes and Savills Man of the Match Kalkani Pehi making breaks which Oaks just couldn’t put away.
‘Turn defence into attack’ is an old rugby adage and hooker Scotty Sedgwick gave a perfect example of what happens when strong defence puts pressure on the opposition and forces them into mistakes. With Tring in possession in midfield, Oaks engulfing defence closed off the half backs options and a rushed pass fell gratefully into hooker Sedgwick’s hands. With over 35 metres to go, the hooker raced away, beating any covering defence to dot down under the posts. Tom Gray converted to give Oaks a 7-3 lead.
The remainder of the match remainder turgid, Oaks being reduced to 14 men for the second time after Oliver Shirtcliff was deemed to have cynically tackled a Tring player within 10 metres of a tap and go from a penalty. Tring RFC did manage to score one more penalty from the tee and perhaps could have gone ahead with 10 minutes to go, with Oaks breathing a sigh of relief as the kicker pulled his attempt across the posts.
To the relief of Oaks supporters, the referee blew his whistle with Oaks down in Tring’s 22, to give the home side a slender one point victory, which moves them up to fifth place, albeit a match ahead of Tunbridge Wells RFC, whose match was postponed due to waterlogged pitches.
After the match, Head Coach Adam Bowman said: “I don’t think you can underestimate how much of an effect the pitch had on the quality of the match. I walked out to the middle afterwards and it was extremely heavy and boggy, making it incredibly difficult for both sets of players. It saps energy and also doesn’t allow players to change direction very easily.
‘That said, you have to win ugly sometimes and we certainly did that today. I’m glad we had the carol service after the match so that the supporters who came could get a bit of extra entertainment. We have one more game this year (against Sidcup RFC) and we owe ourselves a performance after being completely blown away by them at the start of the season. Then we can rest some bodies and minds during the Christmas break. But to be fifth at the half way point in a new league is really pleasing and has given us a good building block to push on in 2020.”
* Sevenoaks RFC 1st XV and 2nd XV travel to Sidcup RFC on Saturday 21 December for their final matches of 2019. All support is very welcome.