OAs Maintain Challenge for League Title
Following County matches last weekend where OAs were more than well represented in the U16 squads it was a return to league action against Ealing. With an increasing number of unavailabilities and flu seeming to sweep through the Club, a somewhat depleted squad took the field against an Ealing side who have always provided a stubborn opposition in seasons gone by.
The match being played on the Ealing Trailfinders 1st team astro was a rare treat for the players albeit the experience was somewhat spoilt by an invading army of Minis who were due to play a tournament after the match. Ealing have always been a big side and very strong, particularly in loose forward play so it was essential OAs used their back line to the max with quick ball and considerable credit to should go to Tom W for doing just that at scrum half.
OAs having acquired an early season habit of a swift start, seemed to have lapsed into a stuttering pattern which makes the gathering of momentum tricky. But eventually some strong straight running by Harry broke the line and ably supported by Charlie, the first score went to OAs 0-5. Ealing are a formidable unit when they put it altogether and it was no surprise when their powerful forwards secured the ball and sucked OAs in to a ruck. Swift ball led to them having an overlap and they dotted down in the corner to level the scores before going ahead with an excellent conversion 7-5.
In some respects, this was a little against the run of play as OAs were dominant in possession but careless in handling and execution. Nevertheless, OAs dug a little deeper and set up camp in the Ealing half and then their 22. Swift ball along the line and Will galloped home to put down under pressure in the corner. 7-10.
The forwards were strong in the set piece with Eddie, Matt and in particular Kieran who was outstanding, securing rucks and turning over on a regular basis. With another well worked move Charlie found room and his break led to a well-timed pass for Will to power away once more and give OAs a deserved but far from convincing first half lead 7-15.
Few words from the coaches at the break about keeping it simple and making the most of the one-man advantage following a sin binning of an Ealing player for a neck roll just before half time, was the order of the day. Much to the coaches and spectators’ surprise, Ealing resumed with 15 players! Doesn’t time fly by – not!
Tom L who had a fine game at fly half then scored a great individual try and a superb conversion to get the bonus point in the bag and to basically put the opposition to bed. 7 – 22. To their credit Ealing did not roll over when faced with a back line which had them for pace and skill and engineered a number of breaks of their own. However, the unceasing pressure applied by the forwards and the intelligent kicking of the backs meant it was only a matter of time before OAs scored once more. This time it was Ollie J finishing off a backs’ move which went through all the hands – rugby is remarkably simple when played like this and very easy on the eye. 7 – 27.
Ollie J then got in on the act again and finished off yet another superb piece of backs’ play to score in the corner which was just desserts for an excellent game at full back. Tom L’s conversion was spot on 7-34.
Ealing players were not pleased and when faced with a potentially humiliating score line on their home pitch showed just how good they can be. Admittedly the OAs’ tackling fell short of the high quality it had been throughout the game, but no-one would begrudge them their try under the posts which sadly and unexpectedly they failed to convert 12-34.
With the game winding down and with every prospect of petering out, won a penalty which Tom kicked to the Ealing 5 metre line. It was no surprise when the line out was won that the forwards were determined one of them should get on the score sheet. Hamish found the gap and went over from close and another great kick from Tom L completed the scoring and match 12-41.
A good performance from the team missing a number of players but able to call on players from the B team to step in and step up, demonstrating once again the depth of talent in this U16 squad. Back to County next week for many of the team and the Herts’ coaches could do with noting how quick ball through the hand is worth a few more tries than a ball lost in the ruck! Good luck to all those representing the County and by extension, the squad and Club.
Photos by Dom Heat