OEs off and running
Elthamians recorded their first National One victory at the third attempt last Saturday thanks to an emphatic six-try performance at Fylde.
Fylde 7 Old Elthamians 43
What a difference a week makes.
After an indifferent start to the season, Elthamians finally arrived at the National One party - and in some style on the Lancashire coast.
They inflicted Fylde’s heaviest home defeat for three seasons with a performance of real intensity, pace and power around the park and were unrecognisable from the side that slumped to defeat again Esher and Bishop’s Stortford.
Their work without the ball was absolutely outstanding for 80 minutes and they had to be at their best defensively against a lively Fylde side who, after going behind to a try inside the first two minutes, performed at such breakneck speed in the opening quarter it almost gave you a headache watching the ball being fizzed around from one touchline to the other.
Elthamians weathered the initial storm and took the game by the scruff of the neck in a dominant second half performance, scoring four unanswered tries. Joe Carlisle was the architect of much of their best work with the ball in hand. The former Wasps fly-half (pictured) scored 16 points, including a try, set up two others and proved to be a focal point for the visitors going forward.
But it was aggressive defence that laid the foundations for this impressive win. One passage of play midway through the second period neatly encapsulated the fortunes of both teams: Fylde kept possession for an astonishing eight minutes, spreading the ball left and right and recycling patiently through umpteen phases looking for a glimmer of light in the wall of white shirts. Yet they found themselves closer to their own try-line having been knocked back some 35 metres by a succession of big tackles.
A tremendous team effort then but also some exceptional individual performances. Tom Scorgie and Bryan Hotston have been in excellent early season form with the Extras, and they coped comfortably with the increased intensity and demands of National League One rugby. The 19-year-old Hotston, in particular, starting for the 1st XV for the first time, enjoyed an afternoon to remember, unforgiving in defence and threatening every time he got the ball in his hands.
No.8 Harry Ledger, recalled to the backrow for the first time this season, was exceptional, too. His support play and workrate around the park was a crucial factor in Elthamians’ second half surge, as was the industry of Adam Preocanin, peerless in the lineout and a one-man wrecking ball in the tackle.
The visitors had been given the perfect start to this hugely entertaining encounter when Carlisle’s kick into the home 22 was quickly regathered and spread down the line to Scorgie. The lock did exceptionally well to draw his man and off-load over the top to Ledger for a try out wide on the left, Carlisle converting.
Fylde took just three minute to level the scores. A slick backs move enabled centre Connor Wilkinson to race over by the posts, Greg Smith converting.
However, a barnstorming run deep into home territory by Scorgie on 15 minutes won a penalty which Carlisle converted to put the visitors back in front.
For the remainder of the half, there was little to separate the two sides with play punctuated by the sound of the referee’s whistle for a succession of knock-ons and handling errors.
Elthamians spent much of the half without the ball, but with only their second meaningful attack they scored right on the half-time whistle. A series of strong forward drives took them into the Fylde 22 where Carlisle fired out a long miss-pass to centre Kieran Moffat who went over for his first try for the club. Carlisle’s conversion gave OEs a commanding 17-7 lead at the interval.
The home side could consider themselves unfortunate to be 10 points in arrears in a half in which they enjoyed the majority of possession. But though they put plenty of pace on the ball, they lacked real penetration and grunt around the fringes and consequently struggled to get in behind OEs’ defensive line.
Their uphill task in the second period got a whole lot harder on 45 minutes when an OEs rolling maul from a lineout in the home 22, saw scrum-half Sam Egerton dart over for his first try for Elthamians.
It was a score that knocked the stuffing out of Fylde as the visitors began to cut loose and just eight minutes later they increased their lead to 31-7. Max Wilkins did well to force a turnover just outside the Fylde 22, the forwards barged their way to the try-line before the ball was popped up for Carlisle to dive over.
Another midfield turnover on 69 minutes, this time from James Golledge who put in a massive tackle that knocked the ball loose, and Moffat was on hand to streak away unopposed for his second try of the afternoon.
Elthamians rounded off a wonderful team performance five minutes from time with their sixth and final try of the afternoon. Golledge was the creator again when his acceleration into the line split the Fylde defence down the right flank and he off-loaded to Dom Lespierre on his shoulder who streaked away to score.
Old Elthamians: Hotston, Lespierre, Moffat, Wilkins, Golledge, Carlisle, Egerton; Rogers, Rudland-Thomas, North, Preocanin, Scorgie, Messum, Barton, Ledger. Subs: L Brown, Morris, Sullivan, Claxton, White.
Half-time: Fylde 7 Old Elthamians 17
Referee: Jamie Leahy