Youth catapults Gladiators to top of the leagueHaving knocked league leaders Hackney off the top spot on the last match OAs closed out a tough encounter to beat Old Grammarians 34-25 to top the league.
The Colts coaches Conor and Simon had long planned for the 25th November fixture as an opportunity to give first senior cap to OAs Colts – Ash Willing, Liam Hagley and Robert Shermer stepped forward. Coming into this game the three lads probably didn’t realise how important both their attendance and performance would prove to be for the club in this top of the table clash.
From the kick-off the season’s pattern continued with a strong first half from the Gladiators. Steve Maishman received the kick off and made the hard yards into Old Grammarians half. Lloyd and Lyle cleared out well and Gyan took a short ball to set-up the backs from ten the metre line.
Toby Daley released OAs new centre pairing of French inside-sensation Illies Fortune and the lively Devon Graham outside him. Illies made the first break and popped to Devon who cut inside on a beautiful line, breaking the first tackler, and beating the full back to score OA’s opener straight from the off.
Toby Daley, a loyal Gooner was out to impress – as Illies’s brother, an Arsenal Academy team player, was watching the beautiful game from the stadium. Toby was nothing like Arsenal’s lacklustre striking against FC Koln this week, and nailed the kick for 7-0 , in what was to become his best kicking haul of the season.
Keen not to make the same mistake and kick to Maish, Old Grammarians kicked short and high, for Connor Mitchell to make a clean take in the air and batter into Old Grammarians. The rucks and clear outs in this game would prove to be some of the most brutal and hotly contested with Ally Ruffett, Connor Mitchell and Robert Shermer enjoying the contest immensely, and giving OAs the psychological edge needed in the loose and the set piece.
OAs won a line out on the edge of Old Grammarian’s 22, and the excellent throw ins and jumping partnership of Tom Spratt and Robert Shermer allowed OAs to set-up a driving maul. Tom Spratt peeled from the back to score for OAs. Toby gave a wink to his Arsenal hero, and slotted over another conversion. 14-0.
The next phase of play saw OAs retain possession through dominance in the set piece, especially the line out, with Robert winning a line out against the head outside the OAs twenty two. The tap down went close to touch but scrum half Rob Fenton smartly flinged a thirty metre pass over Tom Spratt’s significant frame to Toby who again released Illies and Devon from the traps to harass Old Grammarians again and make space for the rapid Liam Hagley on the wing, who took OAs deep into the opposition half. From broken play Lyle Stewart spotted a gap between the centres and careered through unopposed under the sticks. Toby converted 21-0.
Old Grammarians restarted deep, Ash Willing caught well, and rapidly took the ball centrally to the halfway, retaining the ball after big hits.
OAs again controlled the game through the set piece with Connor at hooker and the scrum performing well to win against the head. Old Grammarians were offside in the midfield giving Toby the chance to kick to touch. OAs again dominated in the ensuing line out, setting up a driving maul. Tom Spratt governed the pack to the red zone and Ally Ruffett drove over to score the try. Toby converted. 28-0.
There was always going to be a reaction from a team that had only lost once this season. Old Grammarians responded with aggressive rucking, and OAs conceded a penalty for going off their feet from the restart. Old Grammarians kicked excellently to the corner to just ten metres from the OA’s try line. Whilst OAs managed to disrupt the line out and win again against the head, the ball was tapped agonisingly onto OA’s try line. Rob Fenton picked the ball and cleared well beyond the twenty-two, however Old Grammarian’s blind side was on the touch line and caught the ball, and took a long curving run completely around the OAs pack and defence, scoring on the opposite side of the pitch. The try was converted 28-7.
OAs spent the remainder of the game camped on the Old Grammarians try line, who conceded no less than seven consecutive penalties without a yellow or a penalty try. OAs were awarded a scrum but it was conceded against the head and OAs were pushed back to outside the twenty-two. When OAs again regained possession, Old Grammarians infringed 30 metres out, so it was time to take the sting out of the half and the points. Toby obliged. 31-7 and half time.
Whilst this was a one sided on the scoreboard, it was a real battle. Ash Willing was playing on with a severe dead leg, Illies had bruised ribs and Toby was soon to injure his coccyx. But this was a league decider and OAs had no subs, so all played on.
In the second half Old Grammarians came back all guns blazing, putting OAs under enormous pressure. Whilst injuries wear taking their toll on the OAs defensive back line, Old Grammarians played excellent moves through the backs throughout the half and scored three unanswered tries to set the score at 31-25.
It was squeaky bum time for OAs, only fourteen players left on the pitch due to injury, and Old Grammarians sneaked back into the OAs half. And our clear man of the match Robert Shermer turned a bit Jekyll and Hyde – at one point conceding three penalties in a row, and then when Old Grammarians got over our try line, he turned back to hero mode again held up the opposition player to save a certain try. What a guy. Luckily from the next passage of play Old Grammarians open side eventually earned the penalty for us he’d deserved every five minutes of the game. Toby cleared us down to their twenty two where we earned another penalty from the line out, Toby grabbed his lucky pink tee, lined it up, and pinged over the sweet penalty to close out the game 34-25, and top of the league.
Amazing team win away from home with just fifteen players, three of them first capped Colts, and one of them Robert Shermer deservedly earning Man of the Match. Well done lads.
1 Ally Ruffett, 2 Connor Mitchell, 3 Gyan Rhodes, 4 Robert Shermer, 5 Tom Spratt, 6 Lloyd McConkey, 7 Lyle Stewart, 8 Steve Maishman (VC), 9 Rob Fenton (C) 10 Toby Daley, 11 Tanyaradzwa Fernando, 12 Illies Fortune, 13 Devon Graham, 14 Liam Hagley, 15 Ash Willing.
Tries: Devon Graham, Lyle Stewart, Ally Ruffett, Tom Spratt,
Conversions: Toby Daley x4
Penalties: Toby Daley x2
MAN OF THE MATCH
|Old Grammarians RFC|
|Old Grammarians RFC, 180 Green Dragon Ln, London N21 1EP|