Finally Summer rugby seems to be with us – or at least there were signs of it. The big yellow thing was in the sky surrounded by lots of blue and I wasn’t hiding under an umbrella and wearing 6 layers of clothing.
Before this weekend, the coaching staff had identified this game as one to win and essential in the learning curve of the team in Group A. Although not a full squad, the team was strong with an interchange available. So the scene was set and off we went.
With the wind at their backs, OSJ kicked off deep into the opposition half. A good chase and defensive set saw the home team forced to kick on the last. A good catch from Josh started the Benchwarmer’s first attack. Alex and Jonny gained further yards followed by Danny who showed his intent very early on. On the fourth tackle a “flowing, passing move showed more than a bit of organisation”. Michael W came in on the overlap and “ghosted” in to open the scoring. Josh added the extras and it was 6-0.
From the kick off, the defence held strong. With some outstanding tackling from Jordan (around the legs!) the home team were once again forced to kick. This time the stand off got some decent distance but it was straight down Michael W’s throat. He turned and sliced his way through the line putting OSJ further ahead. Josh once again took his chance (12-0).
From the kick off Declan, Michael A and Robbie stood firm in the line. Once again, Rylands were forced to kick. This time they picked out Josh who returned the ball with interest. A chance of an overlap with Dylan waiting but a tackle cut Josh down. A quick play the ball from just 5 metres saw Michael W run sideways the whole width of the pitch before scoring in the corner (Michael – run forwards!!). This time it was too far for Josh but it was 16-0 after just 9 minutes. A shout of “Rampant” came from the sidelines….but it was far from.
The kick off saw more strong defence with Sean and Tom B joining in with the tackles. Jordan continued to lead from the front and forced a knock on. This seemed to mark the end of the first third of the game as OSJ’s dominance disappeared.
Ryland’s got up a head of steam and aided by some sloppy tackling scored twice in the space of 4 minutes making the score16-12. The coaches were fuming on the sidelines. Fortunately the referee blew for half time and it provided the opportunity to try and put things right.
Rylands kicked off the second half. A nice catch by Enis and he was off. He outstripped the chasing defence like a “Gazelle” and touched down under the posts (2 hands Enis!!). Josh kicked the conversion and there was once again daylight between the teams - unfortunately not for long.
More sloppy handling and a lack of conviction in the tackles gave the home team confidence and opportunities. They scored twice more and levelled the match. The home supporters could smell a victory and it was certainly on the cards. From the Rylands kick off, another mistake and this time in the danger zone. The ball came out of the back of the scrum but a poor pass saw it hit the deck. Michael W was first to react and he sprinted the full length to once again score under the ‘H’. Josh added the 2 and it was 28-22.
This marked the start of the final phase of the game when the Benchwarmers finally started to wake up. Consecutive sets of 6 thanks to an offside decision gave OSJ some valuable ball time and territory. Tom R dodged around, Robbie went forward and Michael A made valuable ground. On the fifth tackle two wayward passes put the Benchwarmers on the back foot but Josh was quick to pick up the pieces. The defence had bunched in the middle and he sped around the edges and went over in the corner. Although a difficult kick, he made it look easy and the score advanced to 34-22.
Rylands hadn’t given up and from the kick off went straight for the try line. The defence held and a kick on the last was fielded by Michael W. Enis went to acting half back and saw a gap. Once again he went the full length under the posts. Josh kicked number 6 and it was 40-22.
With only a matter of seconds left OSJ kicked off and Rylands knocked on. A scrum under the posts resulted in a strange decision to kick on the first tackle. Rylands regained the ball but the referee had seen enough and the final whistle went.
The score was impressive but on analysis of the game there was much for the coaches to chew on. Only 3 sets of 6 were completed and 4 tries were full length from Rylands’ errors. From a position of strength at 16-0, some poor defence and mistakes in attack allowed the home team back into the game. This was far from the best performance of the season but it was great to get back into winning ways. The boys are still on course to achieve the season’s goal but will need to improve things for the upcoming fixtures – games they must win to stay in the top division.