Oakham opened their Midlands Two East South League season with a tense 22-21 victory at promoted neighbours Oundle on Saturday.
The first ten minutes were typical first game of the season; lots of unforced errors mixed with some good play from both sides in the wet conditions.
Oundle struck first - a penalty was awarded and with a quick tap they moved the ball wide right to score in the corner converted from the touchline for 7-0 after 14 minutes.
Oakham responded mounting a series of attacks close to the Oundle line but were thwarted by giving away a needless penalty to enable Oundle to clear their lines. Oakham again went on the attack and were awarded a penalty to reduce the arrears to 7-3.
From the kick off Oakham put themselves under pressure, dropping the ball which was seized upon by Oundle who attacked and were held up just short of the line by good Oakham cover tackling. There followed a series of five metre scrums as the big Oundle pack tried to engineer a push over but Oakham’s forwards, despite going backwards , held firm.
With thirty five minutes gone Oakham stretched the Oundle defence with a series of attacks down the right before a final offload found prop Rhys Grieves in open space that crossed the line for a converted try 7-10.
Oakham started the second half having to defend a series of Oundle attacks resulting in a penalty converted by Oundle for 10-10 with five minutes gone.
Oundle then attacked down the right to outflank the Oakham defence to score after twenty minutes play, 15-10. The heavyweight Oundle pack’s game plan, led by their number eight, running at Oakham’s midfield was taking its toll and Oakham had to replace both half backs through injury. Oundle then stretched their lead to 18-10 following another penalty award.
Oakham continued to play well in patches without managing to break through a stubborn Oundle defence. Will Armstrong then showed his individual skills as he glided through the Oundle defence only to get isolated from his support then lose the ball in contact as another promising move broke down.
Oundle pinned Oakham in their half with some deft kicks so when they conceded a penalty it cost them three points. But from the kick off Oakham launched another attack as a break by James Beanland resulted in a penalty to Oakham. A quick tap and go released Stee Vukinavanua who crossed the line carrying three Oundle players with him. With both recognised kickers off the pitch injured the conversion was missed making the score 21-15 with five minutes to go.
Oakham’s pre-season fitness work was paying dividends as they finished the game strongly. Scrum half Jamie Bullet returned to the pitch with a heavily strapped ankle and immediately made a well-executed box kick which saw James Beanland chasing to almost get the touchdown. From the resulting five metre lineout Oundle won the ball but their scrum half’s pass was intercepted by a delighted James Beanland who crossed for a try to the delight of his team mates and their spectators and the despair of the Oundle players. Under huge pressure scrum half Jamie Bullet calmly converted to give Oakham a hard fought victory in the dying minutes, 21-22.