OA's B/C vs Hertford (@Harpenden)
Blowing An OA Hoolie at Harpenden
This was a Friday night opening entertainer for a weekend full of rugby and a chance for the boys to experience some of the best facilities in the county. However, the preparation was not ideal as the team were forced to warm up in the dark due to no one being at "Home" by the hosting club! After some frantic calling around for someone to open up and switch on the lights, thankfully the bar manager appeared to the sound of cheer. Lights, bar, and action....
The delay didn’t hinder the boys too much as they made a good start against a strong OA’s B/C team in difficult hurricane-like conditions on Harpenden‘s new 4G pitch, the posts were swaying and the cones couldn't be laid out to mark the pitch boundaries - this last point probably made the difference as the game unfolded.
Most of the first ten minutes was played in the OA’s half without really threatening their try line, the forwards hitting the rucks hard, some strong runs by Tommy Day and Oli Poulter, with the backs doing well to keep the ball moving in the windy conditions.
Hertford almost scored the first try of the match when inside centre Ted Evans ran straight through the heart of the OA’s defence, with the posts just in front of him he drove on, pushing for the line and just got the ball down. To the crowds disbelief the referee awarded a 22 metre drop-out, it transpired that the try line was in fact the dead ball line of the pitch (as it is at u13's) and the referee played to the letter of the law which many deemed to be harsh.... but the boys all agreed nodding in understanding in the pre-match ref briefing re. the pitch boundaries!
OA’s were applying a lot of pressure to the Hertford scrum but after a period of three reset scrums Hertford made a good break through someone I’ve reliably been informed is called “Mad dog” (aka Ben Templeton-Knight) but the final pass was slightly too low and the winger Jake White couldn’t quite gather for what would have been a certain try. Hertford were gathering momentum but couldn’t put enough pressure on OA’s from the resulting scrum and they managed to kick clear to half way.
Hertford’s scrum suffered a setback when an injury to Brendan McCarthy meant a break in play for over ten minutes. Thankfully Brendan managed to get back to his feet and walk away from the pitch after close care from the coaches. We all hope he is ok.
A few minutes after the restart an offside from OA’s allowed Hertford an opportunity to attack. A good break from “Mad dog” again meant Hertford made ground but was tackled by the last man when going towards the right corner, and not quite enough support. OA’s managed to clear the danger and threatened briefly down their left side until they were stopped in their tracks by a big hit from Fin Nelson which dumped the player into touch and was concluded by the half time whistle.
So 0-0 it was and a good solid first half and Hertford were unfortunate not to be ahead. OA’s had only been in the Hertford half a few times and had rarely looked threatening.
OA’s kicked off second half.
An early offside gave OA’s the ball around the half way line and after a few phases of play they managed to break through down their right but strong defending by Oscar Porch and Patrick Sullivan managed to push the OA’s attacker into touch.
Some good passing from Hertford across the pitch looked promising but was unable to create enough space to attack. OA’s managed to turn the ball over and quickly made ground down their right but this time didn’t quite manage to get the last pass out. OA’s were starting to dominate territory and Hertford were struggling to get over the half way line.
Hertford had not really got going in the second half as the OA’s big forwards started to dominate with their large number 8 making himself known. The ball was picked up by the OA’s number 15 around the middle of the pitch, he was one of the smallest kids but was quick and managed to run from the centre through a group of players and over to the right where he went over in the corner. 5-0 to OA's
Soon after the restart OA’s broke through again but after going through a few tackles their player was held up by the last Hertford man Finlay Cameron and was then brought to ground by support players. A few minutes later another OA's break through seemed to put them in down the left but another great last minute tackle saved Hertford again. The pressure was starting to tell and a second OA’s try was starting to look inevitable.
Hertford finally found some space and a great break from number nine Owen Evison created the opportunity before a great one handed take from number 8 Louis Barlow, then to Max Maples galloping on and a good offload allowed winger Patrick Sullivan to pin his ears back and nearly in the left corner, but for a last ditched tackle.
A knock on from OA’s gave Hertford a scrum 10m out, a huge effort from the Hertford scrum against the dominant OA’s forwards led to a penalty being conceded by OA’s and quick thinking from number 9 Owen saw him duck through a few tackles and burrow over - try scored. Hertford were back in the game, 5-5.
Shortly after the restart Hertford threatened again, a strong run down the left by number 8 Louis Barlow with speed a plenty (and not at all father-like) seemingly opened up a chance with the line approaching fast but got distracted evading the chasing OA's defenders, he veered straight off-field into touch. Opportunity was lost and progress was halted allowing OA's to clear their lines.
The next notable action saw the OA’s number 8 handed the ball at speed from a penalty and he bulldozed his way through the Hertford defence. A heroic chase by Patrick Sullivan and Jake White almost stopped him but he just managed to stumble back to his feet to score the second OA’s try to make it 10-5. OA’s now saw a way to finish the match off and in an almost identical move their number 8 was charging towards the Hertford defence again, the Hertford boys learned from their previous experience and worked together to bring him down well shy of the try line, first lynched by Jaden Woods.
Into the last couple of minutes and OA’s won another scrum against the head but were unable to capitalise. Hertford kicked clear but OA’s kept the pressure on and passed out well to the left where their winger went over to confirm the victory (15-5).
The referee blew the whistle to end the match. Resulting in a narrow 15-5 defeat after a tight match.
It was the classic game of two halves, Hertford in top in the first but unable to take the opportunities and OA’s just a little more clinical in the second. A draw would have been a fair reflection of the match and the efforts from the boys.
Many thanks to Chris Nelson for his journalistic reporting and not losing his notes in the wind!!
Thank you to kit washer Rebecca Evison or was it Claire Watling? - I don't recall who won the 'fight' for the right to wash (lol).
Also thank you to everyone making the effort to trek over to Harpenden for a Friday night! Appreciated. x