Oakham stay top of Midlands 3 East (South) after victory over Daventry
A hat-trick of penalties from Callum Crellin helped Oakham maintain their Midlands 3 East (South) title charge with a hard-fought victory at Daventry on Saturday.
Crellin's kicking proved pivotal in a close contest as Oakham extended their winning streak to nine matches which keeps them five points clear of second-placed Stamford.
The Oaks had been hoping that the weather conditions would be more favourable on Saturday and they were at least dry but once again a strong wind blowing straight down the pitch would influence how the match was played.
Oakham played against the wind in the first half and, from the kick off, it was clear that Daventry were not going to be easy opponents and the visitors were going to have to work hard for any points.
The Oaks looked sharp in the early exchanges by moving the ball well between forwards and backs without being able to make the final pass to break through the Daventry defence.
Oakham took the lead with a well-struck penalty from the reliable boot of Crellin to give them a 0-3 lead.
When in possession Daventry looked to use their pack to suck in the Oakham defence and this tactic worked well as, after several drives, they moved the ball wide for their centre to break the visiting defence and score an unconverted try to lead 5-3.
Oakham responded with some good forward drives but the Daventry defence was proving difficult to break.
Their big pack was effective in denying the Oaks quick possession and frequently turned over Oakham ball with some excellent counter rucking.
Daventry increased their lead at the end of the first half to 10-3 which was a fair reflection of play but the Oaks knew that, with the wind at their backs, they should be able to dictate territory and possession in the second half.
Oakham were on the attack early in the half but again found the Daventry defence stubborn and difficult to penetrate.
The visitors ran a backs move from a midfield scrum 15 minutes into the second half and a miss pass to the outside centre was turned inside to Will Armstrong.
Armstrong burst through the gap before drawing the full back and sending wing Ben Shepherd down the touchline to score wide out despite desperate attempts by the Daventry cover defence to cut him off. The conversion was narrowly missed which left the score at 10-8.
The Oaks were now settling into their game and it appeared only a matter of time before they scored but final passes going astray and losing ball in contact were leading to them failing to keep the pressure on Daventry.
They looked to have found a perfect chance when the Daventry full-back touched a ball which then rolled over the dead ball line for a scum to be awarded to Oakham five metres out.
Oakham were slow getting the ball away and the chance was gone as Daventry won a penalty at the ruck.
It looked like one of those days for Oakham but soon after a high kick from Crellin found the Daventry full-back caught in possession and the Oaks were awarded a penalty.
Inexplicably they ignored the chance to go ahead in favour of kicking to touch and seeking a try.
They failed to capitalise at the line-out but, with Daventry were desperately defending their line, they conceded another penalty.
This time sense prevailed and Crellin duly converted to give the Oaks a 10-11 lead for the first time in the match with 20 minutes to go.
Oakham were denied a further score as, after some lovely inter-passing, Tom Easson was sent clear only to be brought back by a forward pass.
Despite Oakham being in control it was still a nervous time for the travelling spectators as they knew, with the scores so close, just one slip by the Oaks would see Daventry regain the lead.
Captain Phil Gant almost made sure by making a storming run to the line only to be brought down just short.
The Oaks finally made the game safe in the final minutes as the ever-reliable Crellin calmly slotted another penalty to allow Oakham to see the game out for a very hard-fought win.
Crellin's goal kicking had seen the Oaks to victory, but they also knew they will have to play better in the coming weeks to maintain that number one spot.
More by this authorJames Bedford