OAs Progress to Semi-Finals of the County Cup
Having made the wise decision to field just two teams in this year’s County Trophies’ Competition, a full squad of A and B players embarked on their campaign at Hertford Rugby Club. With many players returning from County duties last week, it was time to focus on the Club where many excellent players began their rugby careers.
The conditions were surprisingly good given the inclement weather of the last week and a definite improvement on the sleet and snow of last Sunday! The wind however was blustery and played a significant part in the match but it is up to the players (and the coaches) to adjust to such conditions and adapt their play accordingly – at least that is the theory.
Hertford ran OAs close in the last match of last year’s league season and must have fancied their chances to upset a hitherto unbeaten OAs’ side. Equally with a strong squad and a plethora of substitutes (finishers a la Eddie Jones) there was no reason why OAs should not win with ease. Whilst the cliché of playing against 16 men is often used by teams as an excuse when they play badly, OAs seemed to be playing against 30 men as they seemed to want to give Hertford every opportunity of doing a Newport County!
The first half was dire from OAs but much credit must go to Hertford who hustled and harried whenever they got the chance. Too many times OAs played like a bunch of individuals rather than the team they can be. Too many phases, too many pick and goes, too many stray kicks in fact too many of nearly everything except the right thing! But when off-days occur the test of any side’s mettle is whether they can still find sufficient strength to ride the wave and eek out a lead. The back line was not functioning well with passes going astray or to ground and back of the hand passes which did not find their man so it was up to the forwards to get something going. Finally, Sean busted through from close to open the scoring but it took 25 mins to do so. 0-5.
Ryan then did the same not long afterwards from a similar position for a two try lead 0-10. Then a piece of opportunism led Tom L to kick over the top and having given up all prospect of playing rugby, he and Harry resorted to soccer and continued to kick the ball from the OA 22 to the Hertford try line with Harry showing patience before dotting down. Tom L then got his angles right to extend the lead to 0-17 and half-time was called.
Ringing the changes was the order of the day and has often been said this squad is of high quality and the ‘finishers’ slotted in seamlessly to the pattern of play. The question was could a mis-firing OAs team, be kick-started into the team they should be rather than the one who played the first half. A few strong words were clearly the order of the day from the coaches and the frustration of the all needed to be dispelled.
Well that worked! Hertford battled their way to the OAs’ line before going over for a deserved try in the corner 5-17.
This, ironically, proved to be the jump start the team needed. A line out led to a driving maul which was beautifully controlled for Adam to go over. 5-22. OAs did not play the wind well to say the least in the first half but finally Tom got his kicking boots on and the result was a second half display of dominance.
Olli J extended the lead to 5-29 (plus 2 from Tom W) with a good use of the line. Then as the forwards camped in the Hertford 22 and then their 10, Tom L was on the crash ball to put the game out of Hertford’s reach and with him adding the extras 5-36.
Sean again capped a good game with his second try from close plus Tom L again stretched it further to 5-43. It was just left to Matt C to show his strength against a rapidly tiring and by this point defeated Hertford side, to go under the posts and with Tom Wadding the two, the ref called time early at the 45 point differential had been reached at 5-50 with less than 10mins to go.
The scoreline was the right one but could have been achieved much, much earlier if the first half had been more thoughtful and clinical. The second half was better and credit must go to the forwards for dominating in the way they did. Hertford battled hard particularly in the first half but had no answer to OAs on almost every level in the second half.
The last of the County games proved the fayre for many players next Sunday and the Club wishes them well and also better playing conditions than they have had so far.
Dom Heath & Phil Hill