The Oaks showed plenty of character to grind out a 22-10 victory after initially surrendering their early advantage.
The Oaks showed plenty of character to grind out a victory after initially surrendering their early advantage.
On a perfect day for rugby, with the going good to soft, the Rutland side ended a losing run of four matches in some style in Midlands 2 East (North).
They started brightly with some strong running and even stronger play at the breakdown where flankers Andrew Wallace and Dave Hudson were particularly effective, enabling Oakham’s heavy ball carriers Phil Gant and skipper Adam Downing to make significant yardage.
Oakham came close to scoring twice in the opening quarter, through Mark Matthews and then Tom Burton but they were both hauled down short of the line.
However, despite good defensive work by Kesteven, the main causes of Oakham’s lack of points was more down to their season-long problem of being unable to secure their own line out ball.
Eventually, Oakham realised that by letting the ball do the work and doing the simple things well the scores would duly follow.
A fine movement down the back line saw winger Ben Harries go over in the corner. Kicker Matthews slotted a difficult conversion with ease to put the Oaks 7-0 up.
Matthews pushed Oakham further ahead with a well taken penalty after some forceful rucking from Adam Price and after Chris Carr had caused Kesteven to give away the kick.
Scrum half Tom Lemon who, once again, was showing what a valuable addition to the team he has been this season, almost scored after a fine break just before the whistle.
Turning round with a 10-0 half-time advantage, Oakham went to sleep to allow the visitors back in the contest.
Their best player, No 8 Dan Turner, broke through some weak tackling to score a try which went unconverted.
This was followed by a butchered opportunity by their back line and then their prop trundling over to level the scores at 10-10.
Fortunately the Grantham side’s kicker also missed this kick.
Oakham’s best moment of the second half up to then had been spectator Chris Burton catching a steepling clearance and getting his new Christmas coat dirtier than some thought he had ever got himself in his many years playing fly-half for the club.
This situation, following on from the recent losing streak, provided a real test of character for this Oakham side and especially their young, new-look, back line.
Oakham were up to the task, though, none more so than new centre Henry Conen, who is proving a great find, and young winger Will Burrows, who followed Adam Stimson’s example of putting their opposite numbers firmly in their place and on their backsides.
In the last 15 minutes Oakham started to again dominate possession.