Wake up call for the 1st XV
First loss of the season
First defeat of the season for Toc as they lose out in an ill-tempered game at Oldham
Toc scored four tries, earned two bonus points and got a wake-up call at Manor Park.
Unlike the previous week against Aldwinians, Didsbury didn’t get the rub of the green on Saturday and narrowly lost out in a tight encounter at Oldham.
There was an intensity to this game throughout, partly down to Toc H's jocular social media use in the build-up. It didn't quite boil over - but it was a brooding, testy affair.
Clearly, Didsbury's attempt at some pre-match joviality via Twitter didn’t sit easily with with the hosts. A misjudgement? Perhaps. It certainly wasn't received as it was intended: a bit of fun. Toc will certainly be reviewing their social media approach ahead of all future matches, starting with Littleborough next week.
Perhaps this contributed in some way (maybe a large way) to the mouthy, ill-tempered game which then unfolded. That said, the rugby side of the match itself was, at times, an okay spectacle. Both teams were committed and offered plenty of entertainment.
Oldham moved the ball around the pitch really well and clearly possess in their ranks some useful playmakers at half-back who have some skilful and hard-carrying weapons outside them. There are plenty of weapons in their pack, too, which is ably-led by some big and balanced runners who showed a keenness and ability to play with ball in hand.
In fairness, the home side's third try just before half-time was one of the best you will see all season. From a tap penalty a long way out, a combination of accurate decision-making, perfect timing of the pass, great support play and clinical skill execution was too much for Toc's strong scramble defence to deal with. And didn’t they let them know about it.
The first two tries for Oldham were more a consequence of Didsbury's poor defending. The jury is out as to whether the ball was grounded for the first one - but regardless, it left Toc chasing a game for the fourth time in a row this season. They simply must find a way to start quicker at this level.
The general flow of the match was end to end - as a lot of Toc’s games tend to be - but too often the attacking progress of both sides was halted in its tracks by a slew of penalties.
Toc’s lineout didn't function anywhere near the required level in the first half - but on the rare occasion they got some clean ball full-back Seb Sheratte raced in under posts from a neatly-executed backs move. It made the scoreline just about credible at half-time. Toc trailed 22-10.They could only improve in the second half. And they did.
Soon after the break, winger Rory Gibson raced in under the posts to get the visitors back in contention. A concerted series of attack then saw flanker James Howarth sneak over in the corner. But Oldham stuck to their task well and, credit where it is due, continued to play their enormous, near-perfect Manor Park pitch very well. Their accurate kicking game and quick transitions caused problems all afternoon and Toc's failure to adjust often left them short on numbers and big on space in the expansive back field.
The key moment came from a kick after Toc were reduced to 14 men - quite rightly - with about 20 minutes to go. The scores were level - but it felt as if Toc were getting on top and momentum was heading their way.
An excellent attack down the right saw them get in behind - but some sloppy handling in front of the Oldham sticks saw the ball turned over and booted long. Toc won the foot race - but not without impeding one of their chasing players.
There followed a lengthy break in play after referee Andy Lord inadvertently strolled in front of Gibson as he prepared to kick a penalty to touch. The timing of Lord's saunter was a disaster. Everything conspired against him - the wind, the angles, the direction of his gaze. Had he been looking the other way he might have seen Gibson dropping the Gilbert Revolution on to the laces of his size 9s. But no. That was just the last thing he heard for a while. Rather than seeing the ball sail into touch, he felt it compress on the back of his head. Darkness. #Faceplant. Fortunately - and everyone at Toc means this sincerely - he was okay and quickly came round. (Not that the return to his senses improved his decision-making - that is a joke #itsjustabitoffun).
Down to 14 men, Toc lost some of the momentum they had gained and Oldham edged ahead once again. Toc then replied when they had 15 players back on the pitch, again through winger Gibson, who won a race to the corner. The conversion was missed and it left Toc needing to score again in a tense - and mouthy - last five minutes. They couldn’t establish any real field position and the home side closed out the game to seal a well-deserved win.