Dominant Oundle seal semi final spot

Oundle became the third side to reach the U18 NatWest Cup quarter finals as they defeated Lymm High School 21-12.

The win followed victories the day before from triple champions Dulwich College, and Bromsgrove – whom Oundle will now play at Allianz Park in the semi final.

If there is one thing that either of them will be glad of, it is that they will not have to travel to Oundle to play them, as the Oundle crowd was simply magnificent from start to finish. It was several hundred strong, maybe a thousand, and they even brought their own pitchside music system with them, someone had clearly been watching the pre match entertainment in Cardiff last week.

It served to create a passionate atmosphere that Oundle were carried by brilliantly in the first half, while Lymm appeared to toil somewhat under the hostile home pressure.

For probably thirty of the thirty-five minute first half, Oundle were deep in Lymm territory, that the half only finished 11-0 to the hosts was a testament to Lymm’s defence.

In fairness to Lymm, much of the pressure came from their early determination to run the ball from their own half, their half backs, Alex Mitchell and Mark Dixon have such speed and guile that they are a threat from anywhere, unfortunately for Lymm they were faced with a back row in the form of the Curry brothers, Ben and Tom, and captain Francis Cundell, that is as good a unit as any around. With that trio leading a top notch defence, Lymm were trapped in their own 22.

It was a slow burning half, the first 25 minutes yielded just two Oundle penalties through Angus McRae, before a Lymm yellow card for pulling down the Oundle maul (watch out for that in the semi finals by the way, Oundle a prone to the odd 15-man maul, quite a sight!) led to a sparking of the action.

First Oundle scored a mightily deserved try as their pressure finally paid off, before Lymm, with arguably their first attack of the half, found themselves camped on the Oundle try line.

Oundle, rightly so given the pattern of the game, with the half almost over opted to kill the ball and take a yellow card rather than concede. It was the type of play that can be so borderline as to whether it receives the wrath or the praise of a coach, but on this occasion it made sense, they could not dominate a half and the go in with just a four point lead.

The decision paid off, an error soon brought the referee’s whistle, leaving Oundle with an 11-0 half time lead.

Oundle were looking every inch a side that had beaten King’s Worcester 52-12 in their last 16 game, and one might have feared a similar fate for Lymm, particularly as Tom Curry went over from an Oundle maul early in the second half to make it 18-0, but there was always a sense during that spirited first half defence that they were never going to wilt.

So it proved, and a tactical switch added to a swing in momentum for Lymm as Mitchell moved from 9 to 10, and Dixon moved out one to inside centre, giving Lymm two playmakers away from the hubbub that was the brutal contact area.

It was that contact area that provided Lymm’s first score though, a maul that saw them crash over to narrow the gap to 18-7. Soon after some magic from Dixon saw him break clear of the Oundle defence before he turned on the afterburners to accelerate away into the left hand corner. Suddenly 18-0 was 18-12, and Oundle had gone from looking all dominant to vulnerable.

Perhaps it was that long wait since the last game that John Olver had spoken about, bodies were certainly tiring, cramp became a real issue for Oundle as the clock ticked on. Though it had been an energy sapping and forward orientated game.

It was no surprise therefore that one of the biggest cheers of the day came with five minutes left to go as McRae landed a penalty to go 21-12 ahead. It left Lymm needing two scores to win, not impossible, but an awful lot more comfortable for Oundle than leaving Lymm needing just a converted try.

In the end it mattered not, Lymm spent the remainder of the game battering away at the Oundle line but the hosts just refused to concede, their pride in the shirt and in each other clear for all to see.

As the final whistle erupted so did the home support, yet the team were eerily muted; celebrating, yes, but not wildly, and as that magnificent home crowd looked to storm the pitch, backs coach Simon Hodgkinson ushered them away. The message was clear, there are two games left to play the big celebrations can come later, there is still a job to do. The superb home support’s message was also clear, they love this team and are delighted to see them progress. For the fifteen on the pitch, both messages are important – they must strive to take the next game, they are capable, but they must enjoy what has been achieved so far too.

If there is one certainty, it is that Bromsgrove v Oundle is going to be a top class game of schoolboy rugby. Either will make a worthy finalist, and both could go on to win this competition.

Full Time: Oundle 21-12 Lymm High School

Photos of the game can be seen on our Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/FifteenRugby

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