1sts - Try fest brings defeat and injuries
On a pitch that bore more resemblance to the WACA at Perth than Twickenham, the Okes came off second best to league runners up Clevedon.
No doubt both sides had more than one eye on next week's crucial fixtures, Clevedon in the promotion play offs at Newbury and the Okes Devon cup final at Brixham, that combined with a concrete playing surface ensured that the tackling on show was way below expected levels. The Okes also struggled throughout at lineout time and their kick chase allowed the Newbury counter attacks way too much room.
The Okes started minus regulars Perrot, Bruce, Nash and Cox and went onto lose several more to injury as the pitch wreaked havoc. Straight from the kick off the Okes put themselves under pressure allowing the ball to bounce unnecessarily. The hosts took full advantage as they regathered and scored their first try after barely a minute had elapsed. The reliable boot of out half Hill added the extras and he was to control play effectively whilst he was on the field. The visitors lost fly half Dan Foggarty with an injury at this point to increase their woes. Okes responded well, but errors allowed Clevedon to increase their lead through a penalty on 13 minutes.
Okes , despite being way below their defensive standards set last week, looked threatening whenever they had the ball. Good play brought the reward of a penalty chance after 17 minutes and centre Richie Friend landed the kick to get the visitors on the board. Clevedon were soon back on the offensive though and added a second try after an inside pass caught Okes napping. The tit for tat continued apace as the Okes were rewarded for their ambition with their first try. Second row Karl Pearce made a powerful charge and sucked in tacklers, before offloading to hooker Jake Shin and the youngster crossed to reduce the arrears. Unfortunately the injury jinx forced Pearce to leave the field with an ankle injury and he played no further part in proceedings.
Okes couldn't consolidate though, and not for the last time they conceded straight from the restart. Another try out wide and successful conversion meant the Okes trailed by 14 points midway through the half. Both sides then blew chances before the hosts plundered their bonus point try five minutes before the interval. Okes were further undone by the loss of second rower Charlie White with a knock meaning all three subs were now on the pitch. Remarkably in the time that remained there were three further first half tries! First Okes skipper Tom McGrattan powered over from ten yards out, but once again the Okes immediately conceded another try, as a missed touch and poor kick chase proved costly. Then right on HT the home side lost a winger to the bin, and from the quick tap winger Luke Honeychurch was put in the corner to make it a 58 point half as the score read 36-22 at the interval.
Oke started the second half really impressively, in attack at least. Kevin Dennis , again stationed on the left flank, ran in a poor clearance kick with interest to make it just a nine point margin. That they soon became just two as the winger finished off in style after impressive build play by Richie Friend and fullback Gareth Espin. Clevedon suddenly looked the side under pressure, but Okes lineout malfunctioned again to let them off the hook, and as the game entered the last quarter the Okes injuries began to take their toll. Okes were harshly punished at scrum time after driving the hosts backwards, the scrum was in charge all afternoon and even took a couple against the head. The hosts kicked to the corner and a catch and drive score made the homeside feel a little more comfortable. Okes had their moments in the last fifteen minutes but conceded two more tries, with further injuries forcing Mcgrattan off whilst Espin and Dennis hobbled through to the whistle, to make the scoreline a little harsh at 55-34.
The Okes did gain a well deserved bonus point, and in truth will be more concerned with the injuries gained rather than any points lost. The lads now need to regather themselves and focus on next Saturdays Cup final, the club's first trip to the Final for exactly twenty years. Although underdogs, the boys will no doubt do ORFC proud once more after finishing as highest placed Devon side in their first campaign back in SW1. A supporters bus will be laid on for Saturday so please don your Maroon and amber, bring your horns and voices, and cheer the side on to round off another successful season.