OAs U16 ‘Cruise’ into County Cup Final
If only! If only! If only! On a bright, sunny absolutely freezing cold day which left the matches in doubt up to the last minute, OAs U16 took to the field in their semi-final match against opponents who have always been a stubborn opposition and against whom we have frequently played poorly.
Cheshunt are a big physical side and whilst they may lack the skill and guile of other teams, are always up for a contest. They have proved themselves no push overs and turned over a talented Bishop Stortford side in a league earlier in the season. OAs have struggled over the last few weeks with their heavy involvement in the County and Saracens games in which they did the Club proud. However the result has been significantly restricted time playing together either as a team or in training. Load GCSE revision and School sport commitments on top and it’s hardly surprising to find them lacking in consistency and coherence. But this is a team which has the ability to produce exciting, fluent rugby particularly when there is silverware up for grabs.
This was potentially a game which could have been decided on who made either the least errors or whose errors went uncapitalised upon by the opposition. Much was made in the warm up of the need to create pods, secure ball, draw opponents in and then quick ball to release the potency of the backs. Well, forget all that as the coaches may as well have been speaking Martian for all the heed that was taken. The first half was strewn with handling mistakes, knock-ons in the tackle, poor decision-making and a penalty count, which could have led to a number of yellow cards.
No-one would deny the commitment of the boys to the task in hand but they struggled to find any consistency against an opposition who were swift to close down any attack and not afraid to get down and dirty in the rucks. Cheshunt forwards were far more than big lumps, they were mobile and strong in the tackle helped by isolating runs which left OAs exposed. If Cheshunt could only get their backs playing as fluidly as their forwards, they would give every side a run for their money in the League.
Interestingly OAs took an early lead and it was through an initial piece of creativity from Tom L to chase his own chip through and then to release Sean. A blistering turn of speed from Sean took OAs deep into the Cheshunt 22 and then having secured the ball in the ruck, OAs did what they do best use the back line to release Tom L to score in the corner. 5-0.
That should have provided the impetus to carry OAs towards a straightforward victory. The template was there secure ball and use the line. Think again and OAs resorted to isolated crash ball, back of the hand passes and blind side plays when there were significant numbers on the open side.
Cheshunt should have got back into the game when awarded a kickable penalty inside the OAs’ 22. It would have been no more than they deserved for some tenacious play and OAs’ lack of discipline.
Finally, OAs started to control the game and in a move which has been threatened for many a game, Tom L spotted a gap behind the Cheshunt defence and hoisted a ball high into the corner. Harry sprinted through, rose salmon-like to pluck the ball out of the air as it swirled round and then finished it under the posts 12-0 including Tom L extras.
The whistle for halftime could not come soon enough as despite the lead, OAs looked anything but secure and to prove the point, yet another poor penalty resulted in Cheshunt taking full advantage with a solid 3 point kick, 12-3.
The frustration was palpable both within the team and on the touchline. The coaches tried to make an impact during the half time talk and only time would tell if it was going to happen.
If the first half was poor by OAs’ high standards, the second half was little better. The players were industrious and worked hard but Cheshunt still felt they were in with a chance. Their play was not pretty to watch but was very effective at disrupting any OA move. OAs rung the changes but like an epidemic, the flu of poor play spread. The backs when they did get the ball were hampered by cold fingers and handling errors grew.
Just to add a little spice to the game, the ref pulled a calf muscle and the hunt was on to track down the ref of the first game to get him to step in. Having employed several drones and tracking devices, he was located and stepped in to enable the match to reach a conclusion; our thanks to Peter and best wishes to Harry for a speedy recovery.
With 20 minutes to go, the game was reaching a stale mate with both sides making more and more errors as the quality of play deteriorated.
With 5 minutes to go and the plays from Cheshunt becoming increasingly predictable, Harry intercepted a long pass along the Cheshunt back line to gallop away into the corner from the halfway line to effective finish the game. 17-3.
The full-time whistle was welcomed with sighs of relief from the OAs’ supporters who had braved the conditions and a recognition from the players that they had played a ‘get out of jail free’ card in this match.
In the end a win is a win and the County Final lies ahead. With three more League games to go against Bishop Stortford, Ampthill and Hertford, there is every chance for the team to get back not just to winning ways – after all they won this one – but back to winning in the ways they can.
Well done to the C team who also reached their Final with ease against Cheshunt B.