Frampton welcomed Gloucester Old Boys to the Stade de Fram on Saturday afternoon. Frampton had won a hard fought match in Gloucester back in November and were looking to complete a double and to maintain their unbeaten home record. Conditions were dry, but with a very strong wind blowing down and across the pitch towards the clubhouse corner.
The Old Boys kicked off with the wind at their backs. Frampton were unfortunate to lose Rhys Thompson very early on with an ankle injury, with Ali Scott replacing him in the unfamiliar position in the second row. The Old Boys may have been propping up the table, but they began the game with gusto and proceeded to dominate much of the first half. They took a thoroughly deserved 12 points to nil lead through two tries and one conversion. It was another Groundhog Day first half performance from Frampton.
After half an hour Frampton did finally wake up and managed to gain some field position and crucially managed to hold on to and control possession of the ball. After a series of drives for the line, the ball was released to the backs where Morgan Stiles scored a very good try out wide on the right. Lewis Oakley converted the try with an excellent kick into the wind. Half time arrived soon after with Frampton trailing by 12 points to 7.
If the first half had been all about the Old Boys, the second half was very much about Frampton. With the wind at their backs they controlled both possession and territory with a mixture of strong forward play, good handling and sensible kicking for position. Frampton looked a different team.
It wasn’t long before Frampton drew level. From a five metre scrum just to the left of the posts, the Frampton forwards drove the Old Boys back over their line for captain Josh Creed to touch down a very strong pushover try. For the second home match in a row, the conversion was charged down, leaving the scores all square at 12 all.
Frampton continued to press and were awarded a penalty under the Old Boys' posts. The relatively simple three points were turned down in favour of an attacking scrum. Once again the Frampton forwards drove the Old Boys backwards. However the Old Boys infringed and the referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try to Frampton, who were now in the lead at 19-12.
Shortly afterwards, Frampton were awarded another penalty in much the same position as the previous occasion. This time however Frampton chose to kick for goal. Lewis Oakley was successful with the kick which extended the lead to 22-12.
It wasn’t long before Frampton scored again through Callum Bleakman who took a very sharp chance to nip down the left wing and score in the corner. The conversion was missed, but Frampton had secured the all important try scoring bonus point. 27-12.
Frampton further extended their lead with a well taken try by Lewis Oakley, who wasn’t able to convert his own try. 32-12 to Frampton who were now looking comfortable.
To their credit, the Old Boys kept persevering and put Frampton under immense pressure for the last ten minutes. They pressed very hard for a score, but were met with some very resolute defence by Frampton. Ali Scott was yellow carded during this period for not retreating ten metres when the Old Boys were awarded a penalty. Despite being reduced to fourteen men, Frampton held out. There was no further scoring.
This was definitely a game of two halves. The wind played a big part in this, but Frampton were not at the races for the first half an hour. We may not get away with this against the better sides which have to be played in the rest of the season.
It was good to see Harry Blakes making a return from a broken thumb when he came on as a second half replacement. Tom Bowen-Hall also showed up well in a cameo replacement role at fullback. Pride of place however must go to Guy Palmer who put in a man of the match performance in what was only his third match for Frampton at wing forward. Previously a centre, Guy may just have found a new position.
Next week is Gordon League away.