Oakham won the Rutland derby 9-8 despite a strong Uppingham performance. Both sides defended exceptionally well in what was a tense and gritty encounter.
It all began with Uppingham running out to a chorus of boos, while Oakham came out to rapturous noise and someÂ well organised singing from the passionate home crowd.
Uppingham seized the early initiative though, putting pressure on in the Oakham half that led to a penalty.Â GladstoneÂ lined it up from a tight angle, but it just didnâ€™t quite have the legs.
Oakham responded well, gathering the resulting 22 drop out and marching upfield. Some good running fromÂ Ruaraidh SmithÂ and combination work in the midfield fromÂ HadfieldÂ andAllmanÂ saw Uppingham cough up a penalty too.
As withÂ Gladstoneâ€™sÂ effort though,Â Allmanâ€™sÂ kick for Oakham was from a wide angle, he struck it well though but much to the disbelief of the home support it came back off the post.
Penalties were to be a real feature of the game throughout, particularly in these opening exchanges. It is easy to blame the referee for these things but in this case it feels appropriate, the game was played in a good spirit considering the rivalry, but the penalty count rather spoiled any chance the game had of being a spectacle.
Another Oakham penalty, this time wide on the right, was awarded whichÂ AllmanÂ knocked over expertly to give Oakham a 3-0 lead but just minutes later Uppingham levelled the scores through aÂ GladstoneÂ penalty.
Both sides then exchanged penalties before, at last, some rugby broke out. Oakham began to run a few phases, using their forwards to make early gains before moving wide to the backs.
Harry BettsÂ at number 8 was in particularly good form, making huge dents in the Uppingham defence, and linking well with his outside backs.Â SmithÂ in the backline always looked a threat, using the extra space afforded to him from full back, he hit the line at pace every time, making several big breaks.
If Oakham were ever going to pull away in the game then it would be now, and their case was further enhanced when the Uppingham second rowÂ Harry WatkinsÂ was sin binned. It was for an accumulation of team penalties rather than any malicious behaviour on his part but it allowedÂ AllmanÂ to knock over another penalty to give Oakham a 6-3 lead.
SmithÂ exploited the space due to the extra man better than anyone, and he surged through the Uppingham midfield, the break looked certain to end up in a score, but a brilliant penalty turnover whenÂ SmithÂ was tackled was the away side escape.
From the resulting lineout Uppingham secured their first real possession of the half. WithÂ Jordan DobneyÂ sniping at the fringes andÂ Freddie WilkinsonÂ looking a threat whenever he came into the line, the away side made good ground.
The referee awarded yet another penalty andÂ GladstoneÂ popped it in the right corner. This was Uppinghamâ€™s chance to make their mark, and make their mark they did, a well constructed rolling maul sawÂ Charlie MoffittÂ go barrelling over to give them an 8-6 lead with four minutes left of the half.
GladstoneÂ missed a tough conversion but the momentum was still with Uppingham as they piled the pressure on again immediately from the kick off, but they were to be denied any further scores by the half time whistle much to the relief of the home support.
He swept in under the posts for what looked like a glorious finish but the home crowd erupted as play was called back for a forward pass. It seemed a close call but looking at the video it was probably a good call from the referee.
Oakham then began to exert some pressure of their own, but a series of plays continued to break down at the final hurdle. The frustration of the players was clear to see as good work was continually halted by offloads just not quite going to hand. The positive was though that the opportunities were being created.
In defenceÂ Tufail-SmithÂ was beginning to excel, with a couple of key turnovers halting any Uppingham momentum. It was just as well, Uppingham were beginning to dominate the Oakham set piece, withÂ Harry WatkinsÂ becoming a key influence, with all that extra possessionÂ Tufail-Smithâ€™sÂ breakdown work was keeping things under control, ably assisted byBettsÂ andÂ Patel-Champion.
Eventually though Uppingham did break clear, withÂ WilkinsonÂ searing down the left. He looked certain to score butÂ SmithÂ expertly covered across to bring him down. It was adjudged to be high, and as such he was lucky not to take a yellow, but in any case it was worth it as without his intervention it was a certain seven points.
GladstoneÂ was unable to convert a tough penalty, leaving Uppingham still with just a two point lead.
A period of calm ensued as Oakham began to move up the pitch steadily before a late hit onÂ Jamie JamesonÂ saw the home side awarded a penalty on the Uppingham 10 metre line.AllmanÂ nailed the kick under huge pressure to give Oakham a 9-8 lead with fifteen minutes left to play.
As with the first half, the referee was giving a lot of penalties, which were breaking up the game a little too much. Uppingham were insistent on going to the corner with many of them but Oakhamâ€™s exceptional defence refused to crumble.
A series of exceptional pieces of defending looked to have saved the game for the home side as first they droveÂ WilkinsonÂ into touch beforeÂ TandyÂ (on forÂ Russell), produced an exceptional turnover over on Uppinghamâ€™sÂ Wilson.
It was a bizarre period forÂ TandyÂ as following that piece of exceptional play he was then yellow carded, again for a build up of offences rather than anything malicious.Â Gladstonepushed the kick just wide.
A huge cheer from the Oakham crowd erupted as the scoreboard showed that it was close to the last play. An Oakham scrum was awarded as the clock ticked over to 0 and an expectant crowd waited forÂ JamesonÂ to boot the ball off the park.Â Jordan DobneyÂ showed exceptional tenacity to scrap the ball back though and it seemed Uppingham had one play to win the game.
How wrong we all were though, the clock turned out to be wrong and there were still an agonising last few minutes to endure for the home support. Another Oakham penalty followed though, givingÂ AllmanÂ a chance to seal the game. A well-struck kick just fell short though giving Uppingham one last chance.
Uppingham expertly worked their way up the field, showing remarkable composure as they forced Oakham into coughing up a penalty. Bang on the Oakham 10 metre line it was a tough kick forÂ Gladstone, right on the edge of his range and with the added pressure of it being for the game it was as difficult as they come.
He hit it hard and true and it looked for all the world like it would go over. Agonisingly, heart breakingly for Uppingham it dropped just inches short. It was joyous for Oakham though as both players fans and staff alike, erupted with joy as Oakham sealed their third win in a row over their bitter rivals.
Oakham:Â 15. Smith (c), 14. Conant, 13. Hadfield, 12. Allman, 11. Stables, 10. Lewis, 9. Jameson; 1. Lee, 2. Russell, 3. Claisse, 4. Thain, 5. Warburton, 6. Patel-Champion, 7. Tufail-Smith, 8. Betts.Â
16. Tandy, 17. Murphy
Uppingham:Â 15. Wilkinson, 14. Rymer, 13. Gladstone, 12. Jackson, 11. Linney (c), 10. Innes, 9. Dobney; 1. Coleman, 2. Moffitt, 3. Yeomans, 4. Cotton, 5. Watkins, 6. Pither, 7. Bell, 8. Wilson.Â
16. Robinson, 17. Arden, 18. Pirie.
Star Men: Oakham â€“ Harry Betts; Uppingham â€“ Harry Watkins.