High five for outstanding OEs
An impressive defensive effort helped OEs to a five-try victory over a strong Richmond XV in their final pre-season warm-up game.
Old Elthamians 33 Richmond 5
A new campaign and several new faces, but otherwise a familiar story at College Meadow on Saturday as a large home crowd saw OEs carry on from where they left off last season.
In their final warm-up game ahead of a first ever foray into National One, the Old Boys recorded a hugely encouraging victory over a strong Richmond XV with a performance that was built on an outstanding defensive effort.
OEs coach Sam Howard had wanted a tough final pre-season fixture to prepare his side for the challenges to come, and he certainly got his wish, and then some, against a Richmond outfit who were as well drilled, organised and physical as any side OEs faced last season.
They monopolised possession and territory for the majority of the first half, pinned Elthamians on the edge of their own 22 for long periods and used their big pack to batter away at the wall of yellow and blue shirts before switching play to both flanks, but without success.
Elthamians’ work without the ball was exceptional, and it needed to be because Richmond were aggressive and savvy at the breakdown, patiently working the ball through phase after phase of possession and probing for gaps in the home defence.
The home side were indebted to the tireless work of the outstanding Truman Sullivan and George Messum who put in massive shifts around the fringes of ruck and maul to keep the Richmond attackers at bay.
Indeed, in a half dominated by two suffocating defences, Richmond will wonder how they managed to find themselves 5-0 down at the interval.
It had taken just five minutes of the new campaign for master sniper Dom Lespierre to open his account in the right hand corner after some wonderfully slick hands by the OEs backs. But that was the only sniff of a chance OEs had in a hard fought, attritional opening 40 minutes.
The second half continued in much the same vein as the first until a moment of magic on 48 minutes swung momentum firmly the way of the home side.
A wonderful lineout take from Adam Preocanin just inside the Richmond half released new signing, former London Welsh fly-half Joe Carlisle, who took the ball up to the gain line before producing a delightful underhand off-load to Max Wilkins on his shoulder and the centre burst through the gap in the Richmond midfield before racing under the posts.
It was a score created out of nothing that stunned the visitors who grew increasingly frustrated as the half wore on at their inability to breach the home defence.
As gaps started to appear in two tiring defences, it was Elthamians who took full advantage, replacement wing Renford Bennett breaking a tackle before storming down the left wing to score in the corner to increase the lead to 19-0 on the hour.
The visitors came roaring back with a close range score after a succession of forward drives had been repelled on the Elthamians line, but it was only a brief respite as the home backs started to cut loose.
The intimitable Bennett added his second try of the afternoon on 70 minutes in similar circumstances to his first, after some clever interplay in midfield from Chris Surman and centre Kieran Moffatt, and Surman himself rounded off a hugely impressive team performance with OEs’ fifth and final try shortly before the final whistle after quick hands from replacement centre Cam Roberts.
Old Elthamians: Rogers, Morris, North, Preocanin, Kench, Sullivan, Barton, Messum, Claxton, Carlisle, Golledge, Wilkins, Moffatt, Lespierre, Egerton. Subs: L Brown, Rudland-Thomas, Ledger, King, Parker, Robinson, C Roberts, Bennett.