Forward power gives OEs the edge
Old Elthamians extended their lead at the top of the table after a hard fought victory over bogey side Bishop’s Stortford in atrocious conditions at College Meadow.
Old Elthamians 17 Bishop’s Stortford 3
OEs had won only twice in eight previous meetings between the two sides, but a strong performance from their industrious pack laid the platform for the win.
“We played the conditions very well today,” said Elthamians Director of Rugby Gavin Lach. “I thought we were dominant up front and we kept it tight - it certainly wasn’t a day for expansive rugby! Defensively as well we were outstanding, especially in the second half when we went down to 14 men.
“We knew Stortford were going to be tough - they have one of the best defensive records in the division - but the way we set about our task was extremely pleasing.”
The swirling wind and freezing rain that fell throughout the afternoon made life extremely difficult for both sides with the ball in hand and with two outstanding defences on show, try-scoring chances were few and far between.
It was Stortford who took an early lead on 10 minutes with a Tom Banks penalty. However, Elthamians replied inside six minutes when Tom White spotted a rare gap in the visitors’ defence and dummied his way over, the fly-half converting his own score to give the home side a narrow 7-3 lead.
White might have added a second a few minutes later when he charged down a kick in the Stortford 22 but was a judged to have knocked the ball on as he dived on the loose ball close to the visitors’ try-line.
And that was pretty much that for the remainder of the half as the two sides cancelled each other out with line breaks let alone try scoring opportunities, a rarity. Elthamians enjoyed a clear advantage in the set piece with new signing from Jersey prop Cameron Holstein prominent throughout, especially with the ball in hand, and they kept possession for long periods without being able to break through the wall of red shirts.
White added a penalty two minutes after the restart to extend OEs’ lead before Stortford proceeded to enjoy their best spell of the game for the rest of the third quarter, securing the majority of possession and pinning the home side in their own 22.
Elthamians were forced into conceding a string of penalties in quick succession which resulted in Holenstein being shown a yellow card. However, other than a searing Banks break down the blindside which needed a crucial tackle from OEs winger George Perkins to prevent a certain score, Stortford never really looked like converting their extra man advantage into points.
To add insult to injury, they gifted Elthamians their second and match-sealing try on 62 minutes when a loose pass on the edge of the Stortford 22 enabled the home side to win possession and release centre James Golledge who charged over by the posts (pictured).
Tries: White 16 Golledge 62
Cons: White 16 62
Pens: White 42
Pens: Banks 10
Old Elthamians: A Brown, Lespierre, Golledge, Moffat, Perkins, White, Claxton, Holenstein, Morris, North, Hosking, Preocanin, Ledger, Barton, Kovacic. Replacements: Rogers, Rudland-Thomas, Messum, Morgan, Dockery.
Bishop’s Stortford: Hankin, Duff, Rea, Cullen, Linney, T Coleman, Banks; Brownhill, Caulfield, McCrone, Kalou, Tomlinson, Apperley, Elsom, Kingham. Replacements: Etherington, Castiglione, McCraith, Keen, S Coleman.
Referee: Veryan Boscawen
Half-time: Old Elthamians 7 Bishop’s Stortford 3
Star Man: Tom White (Old Elthamians)