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Oakham win again despite strong Oundle performance

With England, Saracens, and Northampton scouts in attendance, Oundle v Oakham was clearly going to be a game to keep an eye on.

There was a fast growing crowd ahead of the game, making the magnificent Oundle 1st XV pitch even more intimidating than usual with the chanting beginning even as the players warmed up.

With both sides containing such a contingent of talented players it was hardly a surprise to see such excitement ahead of this local derby, and with Oundle’s England star Sam Olver and Oakham’s Ruaraidh Smith of Scotland making their way to do the toss, the evidence was there for all to see.

As it was, Oundle kicked off and immediately took the game to Oakham, after two minutes of play Oakham conceded a penalty, which Olver knocked over to rapturous applause.

Oakham failed to get the restart the required 10 metres, and it looked as though they might be in trouble after such a lapse. They retrieved possession at the scrum though and began to mount their first series of attacks of the match.

It was exactly what the away side needed to clam the nerves, with almost everyone getting a touch of the ball and a chance of some contact. Oundle eventually turned it over with some terrific defensive work, but that wasn’t the point, Oakham were settled.

The game then began to drift away a little as a bout of ‘kick tennis’ broke out, there was some high quality kicking on show, though hardly the type of rugby to engage the crowd on a cold November afternoon.

Olver ended the kicking duel though with a wonderfully drilled kick to the edge of the Oakham 22. Oundle pinched the lineout and set about building some phases with the bruising Lamprell making some particularly large dents in the Oakham line.

Oakham did well to halt the momentum, with their hard working back row making a huge effort, Olver though kept his composure, called for the ball and banged over a drop goal to make it 6-0 to Oundle.

With Oundle finding it bit of a rhythm and Olver keeping the scoreboard ticking over, it was imperative for Oakham to make sure they got the next store just to keep a balance on the match.

Openside Frank Tufail-Smith was all too aware of that fact as he seized upon Oundle’s strong running Number 8 from the restart. Clinging onto the ball like a limpet he won his side a penalty on the 10m line which Ollie Allman banged over to make it 6-3.

This seemed to galvanise Oakham, inspiring their best period of play of the match. As they introduced more pace into their attack, Allman burst through, offloading to his number 8 who showed outstanding pace to charge deep into the Oundle half.

A nice offload to his left winger looked certain to end with a try and but for some outstanding cover defence from Oundle, as they bundled him into touch, it would have.

Oundle dug themselves out of the hole though with a superb rolling maul from the lineout, marching 15 yards up the field and earning them a penalty. Just a couple of minutes later though, Oakham were back on the offensive.

With a solid platform from a scrum in their own half, Oakham used the opportunity to run a mesmerising backs move. With runners and dummy runners all over the place, Ruaraidh Smith burst through from his own ten metre line.

Bursting through one tackle and shimmying past another couple, he raced away to touch down with just two minutes left of the half. It was a quite magnificent try, made even better once Allman added the extras to give Oakham a 10-6 lead.

Knowing there was little time left in the half, Oundle carefully and slowly worked their way upfield following the restart, trying to engineer a drop goal opportunity for Olver. Eventually a chance was created but from a long way out, the opportunity dropped just short to leave Oundle 6-10 behind at the break.

The second half began with Oundle on the front foot and was to remain that way for the bulk of the half, perpetuated by long pauses with the referee seemingly supportive of a stop start game.

The pressure piled on, relieved intermittently by some outstanding turnovers and penalties won by the excellent Tufail-Smith and his back row partners.

With twenty minutes left to go and the light and temperature dropping, along with the referee’s long pauses, it seemed inevitable that injury might strike. That it did was a sorry sight, as the Oundle Number 8 went down in a heap.

There was some serious concern for him, and with medical attention taking over 15 minutes to arrive it was neither ideal for the injured player, or for the game with light fading fast.

He was eventually carried off with what looked like knee ligament damage, a horrible injury, but far better than initial fears from the touch line. We wish him well.

From the restart Oundle began to take even greater control, with the Olver kicking game pinning Oakham inside the corners of their own 22.

Oakham’s set piece was just about holding up though despite the onslaught, and combined with some outstanding defensive work they managed to continually repel the Oundle attacks.

As the home side mounted one such attack, with just a few minutes left, it looked as though the Oakham defence was finally going to yield. With a huge overlap they just had to spread the ball but a mix up in the midfield saw Oakham’s right wing gather the ball.

Seeing acres of open space ahead of him he opened up the taps and streaked away towards the tryline showing outstanding pace, giving something for the Okham backs to cheer after being starved of ball all day. Allman converted and suddenly despite having barely a sniff all half, the away side were home and dry, 17-6 up.

Oundle kept plugging away but to no avail, Oakham holding out to keep the final score at 17-6.

It was a deserved victory for Oakham despite Oundle’s domination of possession and territory. Their outstanding defence, and the penetration of their backs when they got the ball making all the difference.

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