Oldershaw retain Cheshire Plate in dramatic style
Dead and buried at half time or were they??
Oldershaw retained the Cheshire Plate and won it for the fourth time in their history on Sunday when they came from behind to snatch victory against Ellesmere Port at Wirral RFC.
It was the proverbial game of two halves with Ellesmere Port scoring all their points in the first half and Oldershaw keeping their supporters interested by scoring all their points in a tense second half.
Oldershaws selection showed Mike “Mr Chips” Chapman take the Number 8 shirt and captains armband whilst Tom “Prop Idol” Cassidy retain the loose head prop position. Ian “Master Baker” Jones was at scrum half whilst Mark “Sparky” Hallam switched from 12 to 10 to allow John “JJ” Jones to scamper at full back.
Oldershaw played into the breeze in the first half and immediately the big runners like Haydn Long and Kev “Lumberjack” Coburn were making the hard yards into the heart of the Port defence. Careless penalties were hurting Oldershaw as it gave Port the ball back.
Both sides struggled in the line out as the wind caused problems for both hookers. However both sides seemed determined to use brute force rather than finesse to find a way through the defences which were generally prevailing.
The deadlock continued with Ellesmere generally looking the more likely to score and the young North of England Schoolbu fly half for the Port looked dangerous as the half went on. Fortunately for Oldershaw he seemed intent on doing it all himself!
However they were unable to stop him converting a simple penalty to give first blood to Ellesmere Port, 3-0.
The first score came when a lineout to Port missed its target and landed in the grateful hands of Mr Chips at the back of the Oldershaw lineout. However no sooner did he have the ball than it was gone! Snaffled by his Port opponent as quicker than you could say “Rumplestiltskin”. Port were quickly on the attack as Oldershaws backs, tried to close the gaps for them to run into down. They attack made progress down the right of the Oldershaw defence. The ball was moved back towards the posts for the big men to have a trundle and eventually the ball found its way into the hands of the Port full back with a bit of daylight ahead of him. He did not need asking twice and nipped through the inviting gap to dot the ball down. The kick was converted and it was 10-0 to Ellesmere Port.
This seemed to motivate Ellesmere Port as they chased everything with more intent. One long kick deep into the Oldershaw 22 put the Oldershaw right wing “Paddy” in trouble. He tried to clear to touch but the ball appeared to be deflected in field towards the middle of the Oldershaw 22 with most of the Oldershaw team in front of it. The Ellesmere backs could not believe their luck. A couple of quick passes to the right winger saw him run in unoppsed for the second Port try. Another successful kick saw the score extend to 17 -0. This was definitely not in the Oldershaw script as the half time whistle went!
The Oldershaw coaching team of Messrs Sopp and Austin together with injured Skipper Tom Stead had their work cut out to motivate their troops for the second half. The crowd were still stunned by the two opportunistic tris by Port to give them a potentially decisive lead.
Everyone on the sidelines knew that the next score would be crucial. Could Oldershaw make it theres? Would Sparky Hallam be able to pin Ellesmere Port in their own 22? Would Oldershaw be able to achive a successful lineout? All of these questions were on the lips of their supporters.
It started off well for Oldershaw with play in the Port 22 straight away. A penalty to Oldershaw in front of the posts. 3 points surely for Sparky Hallam? He hit the post, oh no! Perhaps it was not going to be Oldershaws day after all?
However the improved territory seemed to motivate the Oldershaw pack as they piled on the pressure. Attack, attack, attack. Surely the crucial first score would come shortly?
Eventually the defences were breached as JJ Jones received the ball some 15 yards out with just a hint of space to his outside. He scampered off, dummied to Ryan Booth on the wing, stepped off his right foot and was through the defence and over the try line. The crowd erupted with joy and relief. The conversion was slotted, 17-7 game on.
The game continued with Oldershaw dominating territory and possession. Surely another score had to come? A penalty in the Port 22 was quickly tapped by stand in skipper Mr Chips. What was he doing the crowd roared? He made ground to the Port 5 yard line before the whistle went again. Penalty to Oldershaw as the Port defence were not back the required 10 metres. The kick was right in front of the posts and Sparky Hallam chipped it over nonchalantly. What was happening here? Could Oldershaw maintain this pressure? What had happened to Ellesmere Port?
Oldershaw continued to surge forward. Fly hacks, deft kicks, powerful surges all rocked Port back. Surely Oldershaw could not score again?
Pressure in the 22 of Port saw an exchange of passes between the Oldershaw backs and up popped the arch poacher Mr Chips to take the scoring the scoring pass to score wide out in the corner. The crowd erupted. What a score. Hang on though, the conversion was needed to bring the sides level and it was wide out on the touchline. Sparky Hallam composed himself and called upon all his experience. A short run and the ball was airborne, Could it, would it, might it…. Hit the post and bounce over for the conversion. Wow!! 17-17
The momentum was clearly with Oldershaw and it was not long before they were back in Ports 22 searching for another score. Eventually a penalty came. Sparky did the honours and Oldershaw were unbelievably in the lead 20-17 after being seemingly dead and buried at half time 17-0.
Five minutes left. How would Ellesmere Port respond when they finally got some possession? Well they probed, attacked, made a half break here and there but Oldershw defended as if their life depended on it. Tackles flew in from all angles. The crowds hearts were in their mouths as Port made it into the Oldershaw 22 for the first time in the half but they were repelled.
The whistle went and the Oldershaw players, coaches, officials and supporters erupted as one. What a comeback. The proverbial games of two halves but Oldershaw had managed to retain the Cheshire Plate.
Skipper for the day Mike Chapman and injured skipper Tom Stead were presented with the Plate together to cheers from all their supporters. The crowd paused and got its breath back. What a game and magnificent well done to the Oldershaw team and squad for never giving up.