Gosford grind out a very competitive game against Oxford RFC
Twinkle toes Kieran Sadler shines in the centre as Mark Diamond celebrates turning 50 in style
The second game against Oxford II’s this season was always going to be a very tightly fought contest, compared to the first showing at The Brake were Gosford won 57-7. The Oxford Nomads still in their first season were growing and getting stronger with every game they played and this was showing as they had marched their way to third in the table. Gosford were also still showing their dominant side, undefeated in their last 5 they were looking to extend this run and their spot at the top of the BBON4.
The All Blacks were fielding a different side to the first leg, this included an unusual centre pairing of Kieran Sadler and Dan Talbot, Ben Gilkes at scrum half (once again Rich Robbins was called to do ref duties with the designated ref pulling out the morning of the game), Joe Piggott was returning for the All Blacks after a period of absence and would be a formidable figure at the back of the pack.
With Robbins whistle getting the game underway Gosford would receive the first kick off, which found its way unsurprisingly to Sam Durley, Durley would get the honour of smashing into the first green shirt near the half way line with front row Carl Brooks and Rick Green clearing out the breakdown effectively, Gilkes would look to his big forwards to take the next phase, given to Connor Sadler the powerful second row would gain good ground and with the help of his other second row counterpart Tim Davies would make it to the 40 metre mark of the Oxford half. The initial phases were all Gosford and within a couple of minutes they would find themselves, near the Oxford 5 metre line thanks to a great breakaway run by Kieran Sadler in the centres, Sadler was able to run over the first few Nomads before he was bundled by the rest.
With the ball coming loose in the breakdown the Nomads cleared straight to the hands of Pete Copp at fullback, running the ball back at speed Copp would gain most of that ground in no time before being stopped 10 metres short, another lost ruck gave Oxford time to clear but it would only go as far as the 22 and Gosford would welcome the lineout. Ball caught at the front the tight 5 dug together and drove towards the try line, Piggott in the driving seat would break from the maul and would find himself 5 short of the line. However with Green picking up the ball the burley prop would smash his way through the sea of Nomads to bash his way over for a Gosford try and with Copp converting the extras after 5 minutes the All Blacks led 0-7.
This try was a vast wake-up call for the Nomads who had not experienced such an emphatic start since the last time the two played. This caused much stir and the second kick-off was not like the first, the Gosford forwards were not able to get out of their own half and the strong Nomad defence led Gilkes to pass along his backline, with Sadler opting to drive forward again he’d get double teamed to slow him down and the ball was recycled back to the forwards. Piggott now back in the swing of things was all over the park and supported by Zach Latcham-Ford and the two would mark their way up the pitch.
This drive of pace though was short lived as Oxford overturned the breakdown and were now on the march, the backline which had a lot of pace were looking to expose the presence of forwards in the Gosford centre, this was not as effective as they may hoped but did show a potential hole in the Gosford defence where the Nomads could run through.
Repeated Nomad pressure soon meant the Gosford unites were on their own try line and repeated penalties for offside, not staying on their feet was causing problems as Oxford has a particularly bowling ball shaped number 8 that liked to smash his way through and would be rewarded for his technique with an unconverted try, 5 – 7.
Gosford could not afford to let the Nomads get any momentum and would look to cancel that out, however the Nomads were spurred on by that score and would if anything gain more, their forward pack were soon marching forward and like an over watched sitcom the All Blacks were in a repeat situation of only five minutes further, with a penalty 10 metres out they gave it once again to their ‘bowling ball’ who would look to run over some ‘tiny’ backs however with Sadler and Talbot the said back the centre pairing would hit the Nomad’s danger run for 6, ball knocked on from the tackle, the bowling ball chipped (he’d later go off for throwing-up as a result of the double hit) the Gosford pack would look to do their thing.
But, once again Oxford soon had Gosford on the back foot what was needed for the All Blacks was a new spark, something to light the team, engage all the players and spur them on. Solution? Piggott putting in the biggest hit of the season, the number 8 had completely smashed the Nomad forward, who would (not surprisingly) get up very slowly and make his way of the pitch. Fire ignited the end of the first half was all Gosford and the reward was a try before the close of the half which would be converted by Copp (sorry forgot the second scorer) Half time score 5 – 14.
The first half was very physical both Durley and Green had come off for injuries, which brought on Jordan Mcclay and Richard Cooper in their places. And the Nomads showed no signs of letting the Gosford team run away with the win.
The second half started just as well and as fast paced for the wrong team, with the kick-off left to bounce, the Nomads were on it and within a couple of phases had scored under the post, which was converted to give the greens the lead again, 12 – 14. Gosford would not give up though and would come back hard and surely but slowly as the second half progressed the tables soon turned. The Gosford forward were driving their way forward and the wingers of Charlie Loveday and Matt Strong were seeing more ball than they had in the first half. Kieran Sadler was doing his entire seasons running quota in one game and this strong effort would be rewarded with Carl Brooks getting an excellent try through the fantastic work of Rob Eynon at flyhalf, with Copp missing the extras (this was debateable; the score was now 12 – 19.
However Oxford were not done yet and they came back, through a strong worked series of phases they were soon on the Gosford 22, with their backrow making the break he would nearly be stopped by diamond on the try line but the try stood and Diamond was rewarded with a yellow card for a high tackle, extras converted the score was now level at 19 – 19.
With Diamond in Brooks now off with what would later turn out to be a torn bicep (who even knew he had any) Talbot would go to the front row. With only 10 minutes to go both teams were throwing everything at it, this even saw Green come back on to sure up the front row, the tackles were coming in hard and Cooper was dominate off the back row, but would all this hard work pay off? Well ask Charlie Loveday who would score his first try of the season, 19 – 24. With only minutes left to go Gosford couldn’t afford to lose and sure up their defence to grind out a very tough win and extend their unbeaten run to 6 games (the longest this season).
With a very gutsy team performance it was up there with Gosford’s finest for teamwork and with Talbot away for most of the week gave one of the others a chance to write this up. The entries include:
[i]“We won. The End.” – A Four Word Epic by Pete Copp
“Gosford rose against the adversity of an Oxford team full of confidence, aggression and determination.” – A Short Tale by Rob Eynon
“Gosford turned up, played a fu£$ing tough game of rugby against a vastly improved Oxford side but still came away top of the table with a bonus point win. The End.” – A winger’s account by Charlie Loveday
“Whenever I score there is no match report” - diaries of a Prop by Rick Green