Toc H 19 - 24 Oswestry
Toc H's early season form and wastefulness is a concern.
Over the past few seasons Toc have earned a deserved reputation for being tough to beat at Ford Lane - but they were too easy to play against on Saturday.
Leading 19-12 on the hour mark, and looking relatively comfortable, a disjointed final period saw Oswestry snatch a late victory.
Oswestry are a combative side with a sprinkling of excellent players - notably on the left-wing and at full-back - but the early season form in South Lancs and Cheshire 2 suggests there are going to be much tougher teams to play against this season.
Toc have the talent to take on any side in this division – but they will have to play much better than they did here. First team unavailability continues to provide its problems - but the club's playing pool is strong enough and deep enough to win this kind of match.
There are plenty of lessons for Toc to take from Oswestry's attitude and resilience. They stayed in the fight well, kept harassing and challenging at the breakdown and, when needed, the visitors moved the ball efficiently from their strong set-piece.
For 80 minutes they made life difficult for Toc who were wasteful in possession and lacked composure and accuracy in attack.
Just a few minutes into the match and captain Harry Rigby had cruised in under the posts to open the scoring. His try finished off some flowing, high tempo attacking rugby. An indication of things to come? No. An almost-immediate drop in intensity gifted Oswestry a foothold in the game. They levelled the scores with their first attack after working an overlap on the blindside from a scrum. Their second try came after winning a Toc scrum on the half-way line, which was skilfully finished by their left winger.
Toc's lineout was ineffective in the first half an hour - but even in the absence of solid set-piece ball they still created opportunities. Outside centre Lewis David was held up over the line and Toc were camped in the Oswestry 22 for a decent period leading up to the break. Again, a lack of execution and composure let them down. Even so, the home side still managed to go into half-time with the lead after full-back Seb Sheratte snuck over from close range. Tom Makin added the conversion for a 14-12 lead.
When Toc kept the ball they looked dangerous and, crucially, controlled the tempo of the game. Not long into the second-half, Mike Hyde dived over in the corner to stretch the lead to 19-12 - but once again the level dipped and the pace of play slowed. A couple of tidy line breaks from man-of-the-match Sheratte, who was a constant threat, weren’t finished off and a generous scoring opportunity on the right wing broke down with an errant final pass. Had it gone to hand, David had an easy run in to the try line.
Despite Toc’s chances it was far from one-way traffic. Some excellent and long overdue Didsbury defence, particularly from Makin, kept Oswestry at bay. But their powerful runners at 12 and 15 came more into the game in the final quarter and they each crashed over the line from close range.
Toc rallied and finally injected some pace into a game that had slowed to a crawl. They pressured the Oswestry line in the final few minutes but, as had become the norm, a lack of patience on the ball saw the home side knock on. By that stage, the referee had seen enough. The final whistle brought to an end a typically entertaining and open game, the sort of which Toc tend to be involved in these days. But it was littered with simple errors - and it was home side that made many more of those.
Next week: Aspull (A).