This was billed as the league’s top fixture and quite rightly so, 2nd versus 3rd.
On a large, flat pitch the weather once again turned out very good for early December: the breeze blowing across the pitch really favoured neither side. Basingstoke hosted the largest pre-match lunch I have ever been to with over 220 sitting down so a really good crowd who remained, fair and respectful at all times stayed for the match. Elthamians kicked off and immediately exerted pressure. The forwards worked on their opposite numbers and the backs had opportunities but some silly handling errors prevented any clean breaks. The tackling was as hard as nails and no one got any quarter. A couple of penalties against Old Elthamians, one for holding on to the ball, the other for offside in mid-field went begging as the Basingstoke fly-half missed both opportunities. Basingstoke made handling errors as well as both sides failed to take advantage. Tom White
’s long clearances always eased the pressure and after 20 minutes the Old Boys were camped in the Basingstoke 22. They spurned the opportunity of two kickable penalties and went for the lineout in the corner instead.The first was stopped and a penalty again awarded against Basingstoke the ball went into the corner again and the forwards went to work again this time the rolling maul steamrollered over the line with Tom Lawy
claiming the try, converted by Tom White
, 0-7 in the visitors’ favour. Almost immediately a superb break out of defence looked as if a try could well be on for the visitors but they were brought back for a dubious forward pass when the overlap was clear for all to see. The scrum set up an eventual situation for the Basingstoke centre to make a clean break and go over for a converted try, 7-7 and so it remained until half-time.
The second half kicked off with same hard tackling and handling errors as the first half by both sets of backs to be honest. The set scrums I would say went slightly towards Old Elthamians, the lineout's were pretty well even with both sides winning their own ball and the rucking and mauling very even. I think it would be fair to say the kicking game went to Elthamians .
After ten minutes slick handling from the Elthamian mid field saw Paddy Smith coming into the line and blasting through for his first try for the club, the try under the posts was converted by Tom White
. Rudi Thirion went off , to be replaced by Rhys Boxhall in the front row. There then followed a strange decision from the referee: he appeared to penalise Jon Aston
the second row, for going over the top and then yellow-carded Rhys Boxhall for goodness knows what,Rhys made the tackle he was trapped at the bottom of the ruck, he had been on the field some 3 minutes, no warning had been given to Oe's at any stage in the game, and it was on the half way line, so down to 14, Elthamians were now under pressure.
Kicking into the deep right-hand corner from a penalty, the lineout was won by Basingstoke and the pack went over for a forwards try converted by the fly-half. Elthamians had the opportunity to go ahead with a long range penalty normally within Tom White
’s range, but the kick was missed. Extraordinarily, during the ten minutes Rhys was in the bin there was not one scrum, and I think it fair to say Basingstoke missed their opportunity to add to the score with the home fly half taking a few wrong options. Full credit though to the Elthamian defence. A superb break from Paddy Smith looked to be set for the try line with an overlap outside, but communication breakdown saw the chance go begging it really was golden. Then one minute from the end it looked to the whole world that the home side had gone over the top and killed the ball in front of the posts. A certain three points but no, the referee gave a scrum, it was totally the wrong decision, but you get them and have to live with them and that was that with both sides feeling disappointment at not winning. Both teams slip down a place to third and fourth. The top five sides appear to be breaking away.
So what's up next ? Oe's at last return home for the next couple of weeks, having now played 7 games on the road this season and broken the back of most of the travelling as we only have 6 more away trips,it will be nice to have a couple of home games Hove visit on 10/12 followed by Sidcup on 17/12 both are a 2.15 kick off .These will both be very tough games. Oe's have now played everybody apart Guernsey out of the top 5 away from Foxbury which just may play into their hands come the end of season shake up, but there are still a lot of miles to cover before anybody even starts thinking like that. There will be a buffet lunch before the Hove game this Saturday please contact Nick Burne if you would like to attend