Stamford Rugby avenged their early season derby defeat to Oakham RFC, with a 24-20 victory on Saturday in front of a crowd of more than 250 people at Hambilton Road.
In their meeting at the Showground back in October Oaks ran out 10-5 winners but they were unable to complete the double in the Midlands Two East South Division.
Encounters between the two sides have historically been fiercely contested, lively affairs and this game lived up to all that had come before.
The home side lost the toss and Oakham opted to play down the slope in the first half, with the gentle breeze. A big crowd of supporters amassed on the sidelines following a Vice-Presidents’ pre-game lunch and there was a healthy smattering of fans from both towns.
Oakham struck first, straight from the kick off. The kick was gathered and moved into the midfield where Henry Hives broke the line to feed James Beanland, scoring out wide and notching up a five point lead within the first two minutes. The conversion was missed and a pumped up Stamford side had the opportunity to restart once again – this time not providing the Oakham backs with clear space to counter into.
The purple, black and whites responded with a break by Laurent Ross and a grubber ahead, Oakham looked to have the situation under control as full back Sikeli Vakalala picked the ball up but he then had a nightmare moment as he hesitated, was tackled and lost the ball over his own line for Stamford loose head prop James Green to dive on the ball and level up the scores at 5 – 5.
The Oaks went on to dominate possession for the remainder of the half, mainly through Stamford town’s ill-discipline at the breakdown and the tackle area. Calum Crellin kicked a penalty for a high tackle to move the score line on to 8–5 and the Oakham pack pressed hard in the scrummage until the ball was released wide for the right wing Sam Woods to score and extend the scoreline to 13 – 5.
Oakham then thought they had further increased their lead as Crellin scored out wide but the referee adjudged he had obstructed a Stamford player and disallowed the try.
Stamford’s defence was aggressive and stoic, leading to many fractured Oakham attacks and keeping the score line to just 13–5 at halftime to the visitors.
With only an eight point difference it was clear that the game was still in the balance and with that, Stamford head coach Matt Albinson and skipper Bruce Parker made it crystal clear to their players, that this was their game for the taking.
Following the second half restart, the physicality levels visibly increased and the number of phases being created was due to excellent breakdown work, with Oakham bodies being blown away leaving Stamford scrum half Robbie Smith with clean ball to work with.
Stamford’s pack began to dominate the contact area and more ball was supplied to the midfield through Nick McDowall who played with both composure and direction. After 12 minutes of the second half, phase play left the purple, black and whites about 25 yards out.
With the forwards making good ground the Oakham defence narrowed and the ball was moved wide for Richard Thompson to squeeze in, in the corner. He converted from wide out on the touch line to bring the score to 12–13. Stamford were back in control and although behind still on the scoreboard they were building real momentum.
Oakham began to infringe at the tackle area in an attempt to slow the Stamford ball down but the referee was wise to this and penalised the Oakham back row on several occasions for lying on the wrong side and a yellow card for Nick Houghton was shown for bringing down the driving lineout illegally.
Stamford responded by pressing the Oaks into the corner and choosing to launch their dominant lineout drive. The first of which was brought down but the second raced over the line with Fergal MacNamara scoring his first try for the club.
The host side move ahead at 17–13 and the crowd were electric.
With ten minutes remaining Stamford were now set on securing a bonus point. The ball was spun to the left wing to find David Martin who raced in to touch down in the right hand corner and extend the lead to 24-13.
It looked all over but Oakham somehow managed to salvage a bonus point with the last play of the game as VaKalala broke down the wing, eventually tackled just short of the line for the ball to be quickly recycled and Hives crossed for a try, converted by Crellin.