Oundle Development Side take the East Midlands Title!
Oundle 2nd team finish the season with more silverware in a league play off to decide the East Midlands merit level 2 title
Oundle arrived at the final match of the season which started with a cup win against Stamford, and culminated with another cup final at Olney RFC. This was the East Midlands Merit Table Level 2 Final, between Oundle Development who had topped the Estrella Damm league as champions, and Olney RFC who won the Youngs Bitter league. This was going to be a tough encounter, and Olney unbeaten since October, and home advantage (due to the fact the finals day was hosted at Olney). The two sides had met twice this season, with both team winning the home ties, so it was all to play for. The match kicked of at 3:30 pm following the Level 3 final between Cranfield Uni and Northampton Heathens refereed by our own Duncan Hook.
Olney started in the predictable lively manner, and came across and Oundle defence more than up for the task, the early pressure eventually told on 10 minutes with a kickable penalty which was duly converted. Oundle took inspiration from this and gradually took more and more control, the pack working hard, and the backs controlled by David Andrew
finding more line breaks. The first try of the game came on 28 minutes, when after a few phases, David Andrews found Evan Griffiths
coming back on a hard line, and the flanker sliced through the drift defence to score. His superb effort was converted by young centre James Maddigan
. Olney closed the gap on 36 minutes with a second penalty, the Oundle defence resolute in not letting them cross the whitewash, forcing them into taking the kicking option. Half time 6 - 7
The changes were made at half time, the one which proved to be significant was the introduction of Ben Arnold
for Michael Griffiths
. The prop was next on the scoresheet. Arnold finding himself in a one v one against the Olney winger back himself with a chip and chase and rounded the defender to score in the corner. The conversion missed. Skipper Joe Rice
, was involved in the next two critical moments, both in a positive way. He scored a superb try on 57 minutes, which was converted by fly half David Andrew
and this stretched the lead to 19 - 6. A rather unsavoury incident, where he was punched by the Olney second row, Rice showed great restraint not to retaliate, and let the referee deal with situation. He did so by issuing a red card. And then the exciting climax, Olney now fired up by the challenge launch a last ditch effort to claim the honours, Oundle defended heroically, but limbs were tiring. Olney eventually crossed the whitewash on 74 minutes, and with a conversion found themselves 6 points behind. They then scored a second try on 77 minutes, but such was the defence, that they had to get the try out wide crucially. They needed the conversion for the lead, but it missed the uprights and it was a one point game. Oundle secured the restart, and played percentage rugby. On full time they had secured a scrum, and from the base cleared the ball off the pitch for a famous victory.
It was a fantastic result to finish a good season, one of the key targets for the club was to build a competitive squad and development team. With several players on the sideline, whose contribution got the team to this point shows strength in depth.
Skipper Joe Rice
praised all of his players, not only for this 80 minutes but for all the seasons hard graft.