Les be having you!
Deadly Dom Lespierre scored a club record five tries as OEs finished the regular season in style and booked their place in the Promotion Play-off.
Old Elthamians 68 Barnstaple 21
A wonderful end to a truly memorable league campaign.
Try machine Dom Lespierre will deservedly take the plaudits for his club record five tries as rampant Elthamians blew Barnstaple away in a one sided opening 40 minutes to book their place in next weekend’s divisional play-off at Sale.
But this was a magnificent team effort in front of a record home crowd at College Meadow, from a group of players who have defied the odds in the final six weeks of an arduous and truly testing season with some scintillating high stakes rugby.
OEs needed a bonus point win to pip promotion rivals Chinnor to the runners-up spot - no small task against a well organised Barnstaple side who caused them plenty of problems on the opening day of the season in Devon, and who required at least a point themselves in their battle to avoid relegation.
True to form, the Devon outfit came out bristling with intent and purpose from the first whistle.
And promptly ran head first into an Elthamians juggernaut.
The home side were clearly in no mood to hang around and once No.8 George Messum, who enjoyed an outstanding afternoon, had crashed over for the opening score from a dominant OEs scrum after only three minutes, it was one way traffic for the rest of the half.
Indeed, the anticipated nervous wait for the all-important bonus point proved to be something of an anti-climax, as the Old Boys, with scrum-half Ollie Claxton expertly pulling the strings, duly secured the four-try extra without fuss after only half an hour thanks to a hat-trick from Lespierre.
The OEs winger has enjoyed a record breaking first season in the yellow and blue shirt, and he frightened the life out of the Devon side with his searing pace whenever he got his hands on the ball. His first try came from a searing break up the blindside of a ruck; the second a close range effort in the corner after taking a short pass from Claxton; the third, a beautifully timed run up the middle from a Max Wilkins off-load to scoot under the posts.
The shell-shocked Barnstaple defence simply had no answer to OEs’ back line who had a field day off the back of a strong forward platform. Max Wilkins scored two tries in quick succession, midfield partner James Golledge added a seventh score when he raced half the length of the field to touch down and with fly-half Tom White in imperious form with the boot, kicking nine out of 10 conversion on the day, the home side were out of sight, leading 49-0 by the interval.
When Lespierre added his fourth try four minutes after the restart after a lovely break by full-back Chris Surman splintered the visitors defence, Barnstaple were in some disarray and in serious danger of being on the wrong end of an almighty hammering.
Fortunately, in outstanding centre Ryan Carter they had a player who was ready to run through brick walls all afternoon in a losing cause. His willingness to take the ball up into a congested midfield and grind out the hard yards almost single-handedly helped drag his team-mates back into the contest in the second period.
Indeed, the visitors won the second half 21-19, and it was Carter himself who got Barnstaple on the scoreboard when he crashed over for a deserved score by the posts on 50 minutes after good work by his pack had taken play deep into home territory.
It was only a brief respite, however. With the game opening up, and almost resembling Sevens at times as both defences began to tire, Elthamians took full advantage, extending their lead to 61-7 with two further tries from captain Hamish Barton and Lespierre’s fifth with just 10 minutes remaining.
However, there was still time for some late drama when battling Barnstaple with little to lose, threw caution to the wind and produced a late fightback, scoring two tries in the space of two minutes from prop Rob Dugard and a breakaway down the right touchline from winger Linford Brock.
Although they missed their chance of a fourth score and the vital bonus point on the final whistle when the ubiquitous Claxton forced a turnover, there was huge consolation for the visitors with other results ensuring their place in National Two next season.
For Elthamians, it’s onwards and upwards now and a date with destiny next weekend at Sale in the promotion play-off.
Tries: Messum (3), Lespierre x 5 (5, 24, 29, 43,67) Wilkins x 2 (32,36), Golledge (39), Barton (56)
Cons: White x 9 (3, 5, 24, 29, 32, 36, 39, 56, 67)
Tries: Carter (48), Dugard (73), Brock (76)
Cons: Petherbridge x 3 (48, 73, 76)
Old Elthamians: Surman, Lespierre, Golledge, Wilkins, Roberts, T White, Claxton, North, Morris, Liffchak, Hosking, Kench, Denbee, Barton, Messum. Replacements: Bevans-Royston, Rudland-Thomas, Sullivan, Parker, Bennett.
Barnstaple: Topps, Brock, Murphy, Carter, Williamson, Perry, Petherbridge; Dugard, Starkey, Angell, Hague, Jenkins, Childs, James, Bayett. Replacements: Drew, Southworth, Lloyd, Berry, Bath.
Referee: Shane Lewis
Half-time: Old Elthamians 49 Barnstaple 0
Star man: Dom Lespierre (Old Elthamians)