Depleted Oakham fight for hard draw

Oakham RFC against Kesteven RFC. Photo by Andy Balmford
Oakham RFC against Kesteven RFC. Photo by Andy Balmford
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An Oakham side missing half the regular first team fought out a tough 11-11 draw against Nottingham Casuals at the Showground on Saturday.

The muddy conditions were not conducive to running rugby and Oakham were also hindered by the loss of several regular first team players due to the wedding of long time club member Ryan Corner .

However the replacements never took a backward step against a far larger side.

The first half saw both defences come out on top although the fielding of several high balls in such atrocious conditions by Oakham’s back three of full back Adam Stimpson and wingers Will Burrows and Matt Denton was admirable and contributed to most of Oakham’s attacking play throughout the game.

The home side’s lighter pack was coping manfully and man of the match hooker Alan Meadows was in imperious form leading by example from the front and always conspicuous in the loose.

He was ably supported by a makeshift back row of Richard Pocock, Pete Woolston and Richard Cox.

Just before half time Oakham were dealt another blow with the sending off of young centre Henry Conen who had been caught retaliating. Referee Mr Hill, not seeing the initial cause showed no leniency and red was issued.

By the half time whistle scores were level at 6 points each, both sides having converted a brace of penalties, Oakham’s by their reliable kicker Mark Matthews who was coping well with the wind.

In the second half the Oaks had what advantage the conditions offered in their favour and despite being a man down were starting to impose themselves more.

There was some fine line out work by the returning Russell Hopkins and in particular fellow lock, and skipper for the day, Andrew Wallace, who was at the centre of Oakham’s good play.

Sterling work by the front row of Kev Oliver, Meadows and Chris Carr who between them were representing three different generations also helped Oakham retain parity at the set pieces and in the loose.

However Casuals could scent victory and during a period of immense pressure it was only dogged defence by the Oaks, and especially by Tom Lemon who was doing his utmost to shackle the Casuals half backs, that managed to keep the visitors out.

Casuals were starting to look the more likely to score when Oaks centre Tom Burton intercepted a Notts pass just outside his own 22 and managed to outpace the cover in a mud race to the line .

Matthews was unable to add the extras.

The visitors were awarded two consecutive penalties which allowed them to gain 60 metres and the impetus to take a 5 metre lineout, which led to a driving maul to crash over and level the scores. The conversion was missed.

With just ten minutes left the Oaks pressed hard on the Casuals line, phase after phase was completed and just when Oakham’s endeavours had appeared to have been rewarded with a try.

The referee whistled, but not for a score but for full time, having seen a nudge forward as the Oakham pack piled over.