OEs keep title hopes alive after Morgan double
By Jon Edwards
Scrum-half Rhys Morgan scored two tries as Elthamians produced a clinical six-try performance to record a first ever victory at Paton Field.
Caldy 9 Old Elthamians 40
From delight to deflation.
Elthamians duly accomplished everything that was required of them at Paton Field on Saturday, producing a clinical and accomplished performance to overcome battling Caldy and secure an impressive six-try bonus point victory.
But their elation at the final whistle was cut short by the news filtering through from Dillingham Park, that league leaders Ampthill had scored two tries in the final five minutes of their top of the table clash with third placed Rosslyn Park to recover from a 20-point deficit and clinch a dramatic - and priceless - late victory.
It was the latest twist in this most dramatic of league title races in National One. It’s not often a winning dressing room is as quiet and deflated as Elthamians’ was after the game on Saturday, especially when you’ve scored 40 points.
Nevertheless, they managed to cut Ampthill’s lead at the top to four points, and the emphatic manner of their performance at Paton Field suggested they will be breathing down the necks of the league leaders until the very last moments of what has been an enthralling campaign.
Last season, Caldy handed Gavin Lach’s men a comprehensive 32-24 defeat. And here again, in desperate need of a victory themselves to pull away from the relegation zone, the home side came storming out of the blocks from the first whistle, bristling with purpose and intent.
Monopolising possession and territory in the opening exchanges they moved into an early 6-0 lead thanks to two penalties from winger Ben Jones.
But having weathered the initial storm in the opening 15 minutes, the Elthamians pack began to crank into gear, taking a firm grip on proceedings, particularly at scrum time, for the remainder of the contest.
With OEs’ first foray into the Caldy 22, they took the lead on 22 minutes. Quick ball off the top of the lineup allowed centre Kieran Moffat on the crash to drive to within a few metres of the try-line. When Caldy were penalised in front of their own posts, Tom White took a quick tap and moved the ball wide for full-back to Ben Howard to cross in the corner.
It was a score that settled the visitors, although much of the first period was dominated by two strong defences cancelling each other out, with try-scoring chances at a premium.
A third penalty from Jones for an Elthamians high tackle gave Caldy a 9-7 lead on 35 minutes. However, the home side were stunned by two Elthamian tries in quick succession on the stroke of half time - a double whammy which they never really recovered from.
Livewire scrum-half Rhys Morgan, so impressive in the victory over Cambridge last Saturday, was the instigator. On 38 minutes, after Caldy were penalised for a high tackle in their own 22, his quickly taken tap penalty enabled Charlie Self to crash over from close range.
Then in the final play of the half, after the Elthamian scrum had shunted Caldy back towards their own line, Morgan was able to pick up and dart over around the blindside for the score.
It was a hammer blow for the home side who had seen a two-point advantage turned into a 10-point deficit in the space of two minutes. And although they had their moments after the break, they rarely looked like reducing the deficit against an Elthamians side who took a firm stranglehold on proceedings.
They dominated possession and territory and grabbed the crucial bonus point for a fourth try on 53 minutes with a well-worked score.
Slick hands down the back-line released Dom Lespierre out wide who burst clear of the first line of defence. Although he was cut down in mid-stride, the winger did superbly to get back to his feet, and make another five metres before off-loading the ball basket-ball style inside him to the ever alert Morgan who crossed under the posts for his second try.
The provider turned try-scorer on 67 minutes when Lespierre was sent racing clear down the right touchline after some lovely interplay from White and replacement scrum-half Ollie Claxton.
And the visitors finished a dominant second half display pinning Caldy in their own 22 before the pack won a penalty try a minute from the end when they reduced the Caldy scrum to rubble over their own line and referee Neil Chivers had no hesitation in running under the posts.
Tries: Howard 21 Self 37 Morgan 40 57 Lespierre 67 Penalty Try 79
Cons: White 22, 38 58 69
Pens: Jones 2,5 36
Old Elthamians: Howard, Lespierre, Golledge, Moffat, Perkins, White, Morgan; Rogers, Morris, Scutt, Hosking, Self, Ledger, Barton, King. Replacements: L Brown, Rudland-Thomas, Preocanin, Claxton, A Brown.
Referee: Neil Chivers
Star man: Harry Ledger (Old Elthamians)