Hackney downed! As OAs Gladiators gun for top spot.
With the league championship still a possibility a refreshed OAs Gladiators lineup played composed and clinical rugby to see off Hackney, and take home the needed league points.
The Gladiators had become accustomed to a regular line up of late, however this weekend saw regulars like Maish, Harry, Brunty, Hugo, Euan, Fernando, Jimmy and Lloydy all unavailable. The strength and depth of OAs youth development filled the empty boots with U17 Wilson Mujere, U18 Rob Shermer and Twanda Mujere volunteering the morning of the match to fill in as well as Gladiators welcoming the return of U19 Tom Spratt who had the honour of filling Maish’s No. 17 shirt at No. 8 and return of John Atkins. But could this youthful side deliver the mature performance required for an away win against Hackney?
The game kicked off with the typical OAs fervour, OAs receiving the kick off and soon advancing into Hackney territory. Within the first few phases OAs had used straight forward pods and quick recycling to advance into the Hackney twenty two. After prop Gyan Rhodes had made an attempt to crash over for a try, being held just short, OAs were awarded a penalty five metres in front of the post. This being a must win game, Toby slotted the penalty and OAs took early control. 0-3.
Hackney fought back strongly from the restart, with both their props combining to break gain lines in the middle of OAs defence, and would prove to be a handful all day, so much so that one of their boots drifted into Jonny Clavey’s own intimate handful, requiring a significant and somewhat embarrassing rest on the sidelines. With OAs defence continuing to be slow to reset after the line breaks from Hackney’s forwards, OAs defence became dog-legged and their centre broke through the backline to score near the posts. Converted 7-3.
The backline was reorganised with Colt lock Rob Shermer coming off the bench to join in the centres, he proved to not just have great hands in lineouts but also in the back three this day. OAs retained the ball from the restart after a Hackney knock on, and would continue to keep Hackney locked in their half. OAs were patient in attack with Rob and Toby using strong carries from forwards Tom Spratt, Jonny Clavey, Zach West and Wilson Mujere to get Hackney to commit numbers in the tackle and then attack rapidly to use wingers Twanda and Tito finish the attacks. But for the excellent drift defence and pressure from Hackney’s wing and full back Twanda and Tito could have scored a brace each from attacks set-up by Rob Shermer and also their own evasive counter attacking runs whenever Hackney tried and failed to clear their own lines. But OAs did not panic at being in second place on the scoreboard.
With Connor at hooker, OAs scrum won all of their own put ins, and a good percentage of the oppositions too. On a Hackney put-in on halfway OAs drove the them backwards to the ten metre causing them to collapse in retreat and concede the penalty. Toby nudged the penalty to within Hackney’s twenty two, Zach jumped well and returned to set-up the driving maul, arguably Hackney collapsed the Maul and Tom Spratt and Alan Kirk peeled from the Maul to smash to the try line, five metres out Fenton passed from the ruck to flyhallf Toby who ran a diagonal line towards the post, threw an outrageous one-handed dummy to Devon was running a straight line under the posts, then doubled-back on himself to score the try whilst both opposition centres were tag teaming Devon. Audacious skill for his first try of the season. Converted by himself for a 7-10 lead. Half-time.
At halftime OAs were confident. They’d come back from conceding the first try, controlled the rest of the half and finished the half on top, and had left points on the pitch too.
The second half like the first a good battle, that OAs would remain on top of. OAs pack grew in dominance, creating a great platform for Tom Spratt to emulate his shirt owner Maish and pick and go numerous times making twenty metre plus carries at every opportunity and offloading well for support players – a real menace for Hackney all day. Connor, Zach and vice captain Lyle worked tirelessly at the breakdown to ensure OAs had quick ball from Tom Spratt’s carries to allow the ever present and now slightly higher-pitched Jonny Clavey to combine with Wilson to again batter Hackney. After numerous pack led attacks, Hackney were stretched and Toby unleashed the backs through Devon and Robbie who set-up Twanda for his well deserved try having created many chances in both halves.
OAs continued to control most areas of the game for the next phase. The pack dominated in the middle of the park through rucks and scrums to set-up attacks for OAs. After several pick and goes near the Hackney try line Rob passed to Toby with a two man overlap out wide, Toby had a taste for tries, dummied again, and cut in inside for the second time in the match to score. 7-20.
Hackney then forced an error from the OAs attack with OA’s centre knocking on in contact on the halfway, with the full back and opposite wing up in the attack, Hackney’s full back fly-hacked the ball over 40 metres into an empty half, he evaded the valiant chase of Zach and Rob Shermer to score. Converted 14-20.
OAs were then put under significant pressure from Hackney in the last ten minutes as they sought the converted try that would enable them to commit an East London mugging! OAs managed to clear their lines and then win the line out against the head. From then on OAs would remain inside the Hackney half for the remainder of the match. After phases of attack took OAs within ten metres, Tom Spratt broke through, and was unlucky not to get the try his performance deserved, adjudged to have been held up over the line. OAs went back for a penalty five metres out and in front of the posts. With five minutes to go, Toby took his full two minutes, the three points, the win and man of the match along with Tom Spratt.
14-23. Full time.
OAs Gladiators top of the league and their biggest challenge to come in a home tie against highest points scorers and the meanest defence of Old Grammarians 1st XV.
Thanks again to Eddie Panting for midweek training with the Colts. And massive shout out to those players who made this game possible.
1 Alan Kirk. 2 Connor Mitchell. 3 Gyan Rhodes. 4 Jonny Clavey.
5 Zach West. 6 Wilson Mujere. 7 Lyle Stewart (vc). 8 Tom Spratt.
9 Rob Fenton (c) 10 Toby Daley. 11 Twanda Mujere. 12 Devon Graham.
13 Robbie Nicolaou. 14 Tito Fernando. 15 John Atkins. 16 Rob Shermer.
Toby Daley x2, Twanda Mujere
Toby Daley x2
MEN OF THE MATCH
Toby Daley – scored eighteen points out of twenty three.
Tom Spratt – for filling Maish’s shirt with honour
|HACKNEY RFC, London E5 9BL|