Injuries take their toll as Oakham lose close cup clash in extra-time

Ed Balmford touches down for Oakham during Saturday's match against Newark.
Ed Balmford touches down for Oakham during Saturday's match against Newark.
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A close contest saw Oakham bow out of the RFU Intermediate Cup after a 20-27 extra-time defeat to Newark at the Showground on Saturday.

Both sides have had a difficult start to the season with Oakham losing their Midlands 2 East (South) opener 51-9 at Oadby Wyggestonians last weekend.

Prior to kick off a one minute silence was observed in memory of Oakham player Savenaca Koroibulileka who tragically died on the pitch in the corresponding fixture one year ago and also for Oakham RFC stalwart Richard Watson, a former club captain and president for many years who passed away recently.

Heavy rain showers before kick-off and a stiff breeze promised to make handling conditions difficult as Newark kicked off playing into the breeze.

Oakham were soon into their stride and a series of drives put Newark on the back foot before a well-judged kick ahead by the hosts was taken over their line by Newark, resulting in a five-metre scrum with Oakham put in.

Despite being under pressure Stee Vukinavanua manged to force his way across the gain line before Ed Balmford latched onto the ball at pace, taking a couple of defenders with him as he crashed over the Newark line for the opening score.

Callum Crellin converted to give Oakham a 7-0 lead after eight minutes played.

From the kick-off Oakham set up another series of drives heading deep into Newark territory before the visitors conceded a penalty.

Crellin increased Oakham’s lead with a well struck kick to put Oakham 10-0 ahead after 10 minutes played.

The home side were playing with confidence, spreading the ball wide and attacking from their own 22.

This confidence soon evaporated though as Oakham were made to pay the price when, instead of securing the ball, they attempted to offload under pressure resulting in a badly sliced clearance kick which was seized upon by a delighted Newark wing as he went over in the corner.

The conversion was missed but Newark were back in the game somewhat against the run of play 10-5 with 14 minutes played.

Oakham were still on top as they continued to cause problems for the Newark defence with Ed Balford and Stee Vukinavanua frequently crossing the gain line to give the home side good ball for the backs to run onto.

On the half hour mark another break from Ed Balmford saw the ball moved quickly to Glenn on the left wing.

Cleverly stepping inside the Newark defence, he accelerated away before drawing the full back and passing to Dan Cousens who outpaced the cover to score in the corner.

An excellent conversion by Crellin from the touchline saw Oakham increase the lead to 17-5.

Despite the scrum being under pressure and having to reduce the lineout numbers, Oakham were coping well with the big Newark pack and, with the home backs looking to have the advantage, everything seemed to be going Oakham;s way.

Another break by Charlie McKee looked to be leading to another score but a clever interception by Newark saw them race away upfield only for Crellin to make a great cover tackle in the corner to deny Newark what looked like a certain try.

Oakham moved the ball upfield again and Leon Fifield again put Charlie McKee away but McKee failed to find support with his infield pass to see another chance to increase the lead go begging.

Oakham were awarded another penalty, calmly slotted by Crellin to increase the lead at half time to 20-5.

Their dominance of the first half had not come without problems for Oakham as injuries began to take their toll with an outstanding performance from Balmford being curtailed by a shoulder injury. McKee was also replaced with a head injury together with prop Chris Carr.

The changes seemed to give Newark a lift and their pack were gradually taking control.

With ten minutes played Oakham conceded ground and Newark drove forward to create space out wide for a score in the corner which was unconverted for 20-10.

Oakham were now the team under pressure as they defended wave on wave of Newark attacks.

With another reshuffle of the pack forced by injury to lock Russell Hopkins, Oakham then conceded a five-metre scrum which Newark applied heavy pressure and drove Oakham over their own line for a converted try and it was 20-17 with 10 minutes to play.

Oakham tried in vain to break the pressure which Newark were now exerting but were unable to take advantage as the visitors had a player sin binned late on.

Oakham were also repeatedly falling foul of the referee, finally conceding a kickable penalty which Newark accepted to level the score at 20-20.

Oakham attempted to win the game late on and nearly pulled it off with a long-range penalty from Crellin against the wind which fell just under the crossbar, but the score remained tied at 20-20 as the full-time whistle was blown.

In the first period of extra time Newark began taking control with Oakham now conceding a series of penalties as they desperately defended the attacks.

Newark used the penalties to work their way to within ten metres of the Oakham line and from the line-out set up a driving maul to shunt Oakham over the line. The try was converted to give Newark the lead for the first time.

Oakham tried desperately to get back on level terms but were unable to break the Newark defence.

Oakham’s chance finally went as they were reduced to 14 men with a late sin bin with the game ending with Newark running out extra time winners.

Oakham return to league action this weekend with a derby trip to face Stamford.