Oakham RFC ended their run of two league losses on the trot with a narrow 24-21 victory over third place Lutterworth on Saturday.
Oakham kicked off with the strong wind at their backs in the first half and soon found Lutterworth in uncompromising mood, attacking Oakham from the outset using a fast off-loading game and, aided by some sloppy tackling, exposing gaps in the home defence at the Showground.
With only five minutes played Oakham found themselves behind when Lutterworth turned over possession from an Oakham scrum, catching them by surprise as the ball was switched left to put their wing in the clear to cross near the posts following a mix up in Oakham’s drift defence.
Oakham found their set piece under pressure, frequently losing their own ball but were saved by some great scramble defence as Lutterworth launched a series of attacks. It was only a matter of time before the pressure told as Lutterworth closed in on Oakham’s line, used a huge miss pass to outflank the home defence allowing their wing to cross unopposed for another converted try near the posts for 14-0 after 25 minutes.
The match seemed to be drifting away from Oakham but in a last desperate push and with a series of well -constructed pick and drives, Oakham managed to drive over the line for a much needed try, touched down by Rhys Grieve, converted by Nick Wackwitz to bring Oakham back into the game just before half time.
Oaks started the second half playing against the wind and their supporters feared a heavy defeat but the Oaks players raised their game from the outset and tackling in twos to stop the Lutterworth off-loading game seemed to put some doubt into the visitors.
Lutterworth were suddenly not finding the gaps and started to run out of attacking ideas. At the same time Oakham started to play with more confidence and nearly scored following a clever box kick by Callum Crellin which allowed Nick Wackwitz to catch running at full pace and only a last ditch tackle prevented him scoring.
With 12 minutes gone in the second half Oakham switched the ball left and found James Beanland in some space to break the defence, round the full back and score near the posts, converted by Wackwitz for 14-14.
Oakham continued to attack whenever they could but it was not all one way with some great tackling by both sides as they chased a winning score. With a change in front row Oakham’s scrum was now dominant and, with the lineout also starting to function Oakham were getting more and more possession and, as the pressure mounted, Lutterworth started to concede penalties.
Late in the game Oakham kicked for the corner. The lineout was won and from the ensuing driving mauls Beanland broke away and squeezed over in the corner. The conversion was narrowly missed by Crellin from wide out leaving the score 19-14.
Lutterworth then threw themselves at the Oakham line but the home defence held firm. Oakham were relieved when the referee awarded them a penalty which was gleefully kicked down-field.
From the ensuing lineout Oakham regained possession but Lutterworth were running foul of the referee in their desperation to regain possession and Oakham advanced down-field with a series of quick tap and go penalties by Crellin. From another penalty Oakham kicked to touch some 15 metres from the Lutterworth line, secured possession from the lineout and proceeded to drive the maul right to the Lutterworth line. Arch poacher Beanland getting his third try, to make it 24-14 with injury time left to play.
Lutterworth were not done and from the kick off launched themselves at Oakham, crashing over for a converted try near the posts to make the score 24-21 but Oakham held on for the last couple of minutes to a rousing cheer from the large crowd at the whistle.