Oundle Make It To Midlands 1!
The Eagles overcome Coalville to win the promotion play off in a thriller at Occupation Road.
Oundle 1st Xv faced yet another big game at the end of the season for high stakes. This year it was against Coalville RFC to see who would gain the third promotion place to Midlands 1. This was also the last game in charge of the 1st Xv as head coach for Pete Croot. He said “I want to finish this season with a great performance, whatever the outcome.” He named in his words “I think the strongest side we have had all season.” It would have been nice to include a couple more for this but the league only allows 4 replacements. Coming in on the bench was Evan Griffiths
after a man of the match performance to help the 2nd Xv win the EM level 2 Final last weekend, alongside 2nd Xv skipper Joe Rice
. The day was perfect, the pitch softened with help of Marcus Berridge irrigating the pitch in the week, and some welcome rain. The weather was mild with a slight breeze, perfect for a great game of rugby. Coalville arrived with a reputation for powerful forward play, and having won their last 11 games on the bounce.
And so to game time, and right from the start it was obvious that the Eagles were up for the match. Recent big games at the club had prepared this side for the theatre. The 400 strong crowd were going to be entertained. The initial phases, saw them into early pressure on Coalville, acting quickly at the breakdown, real pace coming on to the ball. The first scrum showed the Oundle pack to be dominant in the set, and with Simon New
stealing their first lineout the pack were going to lay down a good platform. On 10 minutes, breaking from his own half, Craig Tandy
managed to offload to Simon New
, the flanker showing classic skills as he drew the last man, and put winger Calum Gardner
into space, and the speedster flew into the corner to score the nerve settling first try. Jaco Steenberg
, stepped up for the conversion from the touchline but unfortunately the effort just faded past the outside upright. Oundle were forced into an early replacement, AK Kachra injuring his knee, replaced by Griffiths. Rob Shingles battled heroically to get go forward ball, but Coalville had clearly done their homework and defended in numbers as he posed any threat, but this game the threat came from all over, Dan Page
, Simon New
, Vernon Horne
and Toby Snelling
all making serious inroads. The whole thing orchestrated by Steenberg and Tandy with more and more go forward ball from the front five. Joe Roberts
and Saad Sait
both making bullocking runs right through the middle of the Coalville defence. The back three all running the ball back with interest. Indeed Saad Sait
was only stopped by a high tackle on 13 minutes, and Steenberg duly punished the visitors with 3 points. 3 Minutes later Coalville entered the side of a ruck from the side, and the scrum half stepped up to kick a 45 metre penalty. The home side started to really pile on the pressure with pace and power. Coalville never capitalised on any territory, Oundle turned over ball on 25 minutes inside their own 22. The forwards drove towards the half way line, and Tandy found a gap to let loose Snelling how powered through. With speedster Vernon Horne
on his shoulder, the centre raced toward the line. The try that followed was a great example of teamwork, he drew the full back, and Steenberg had tracked up field was the recipient of a great pass, and the 9 speed over the line to make it 16-0. Recovering his composure, he the slotted the conversion from out wide. Richard Jones
then surprised the crowd with an exquisite try 3 minutes later, showing classic rugby skills. It started from the kick off, Simon New
as always secure under the high ball, and drove into a Coalville pack. Oundle exited the situation with a superb break by Sait, who Sonny Bill Williams style offloaded out of the back to Shingles, Coalville were all over the place in scramble defence. Tandy saw the opportunity to break back down the blindside. As he was tackled his pass found Jones the prop, showed his athletics, collecting the ball from behind him, he mesmerised the defence with the ball in two hands and sprinted 30 metres to score in the corner. With Steenbergs effort again shaving the uprights, the score was 23 – 0. Oundle then seemed to be camped on the Coalville line, frustrated by a few errors and so dogged defence. It was Horne who was next on the score sheet, showing his power this time as he drove the line supported by workhorses Page and New. Steenberg converted again to make it 30-0 on 34 minutes. Coalville though hadn’t finished second in their league for no reason, and they had the last say of the half. The eventually got some field territory towards the end of the half, and Oundle looked like they had kept them out, when with a ruck 2 metres out, the scrum half found the smallest of gaps to snipe through and score. Conversion being missed was the last action of the half. 30 – 5.
It was a superb half of rugby, the second half would take some living up to. Oundle made no changes, and the team knew that the first 15 minutes would be vital. The second half underway it was all Oundle again, as they again pressed. Yet it became frustrating, Coalville defending really well and tiredness creeping in, the execution of the final option not quite going to plan. Oundle however never looked like letting the game slip. The whole pack carrying the ball hard into the Coalville ranks, pinning them back. Adam Peel
entered the arena on 50 minutes, Gardner coming off, his physicality causing more threat to the visitors. Soon after Joe Rice
came on to add more pace, after Simon Andrews
again had worked hard. The changes though couldn’t add further scores. Indeed the contest over, it seemed Oundle would be frustrated for the rest of the afternoon. The usually metronomic kicker Steenberg, had a chance to add a penalty on 70 minutes but just missed the left hand post. Mark Carter
replaced Jones, and the Oundle scrum still dominated. However the last few minutes belonged to the visitors, with penalties coming as the home side tired. Adam Peel
was yellow carded on 74 minutes, for cynical play. And after completely dominating the second half, but being frustrated by Coalville’s dogged defence, the visitors got a consolation try. The final play of the game, saw Coalville move the ball from what appeared to be a knock on, this wrong footed the defence. The visitors did support well, and scored under the posts, but it didn’t matter as the conversion was the last action of the game. Oundle were promoted!
Final Score 30-12
Man of the Match Simon New
Next Season will be almost an East Midlands league with 10 of the 14 teams coming from the CB. This means lots of local derbies to relish. Pete Croot hands over to Jon Phillips to guide the senior team through the next phase of their history. “I’ve done all I can in this phase 3 promotions in 4 years. It needs new ideas and leadership, I am going to move on to Director of Rugby to put in systems and people to make sure this success is sustainable. The whole club needs to enjoy these times, and help them continue. Most of this side started as mini and juniors at the club and they have returned to help us build. What this means is our successful players no longer need to help the likes of Peterborough Lions, ON’s or Kettering at a high level, because now we are on par. Aly Kachra has been a great friend, supporter and with him as Chairman I am sure we can continue to keep the good times here. Graham Snelling our secretary and founder, must have been proud to see the name still on the team sheet though his son Toby. That typifies our club, we are here for the community and the tradition of playing rugby.”
Lastly we would like to thank Coalville for a great game, and great sportsmanship and Karaoke skills. For those who don’t know their bus broke down, and returned to the club, ( after a beer at the T&K ). Both teams then enjoyed a great night at the club until they were collected at 11pm.
Many thanks to Mick Sutterby, picturethisphotography for the epic pictures