A superb defensive display helped lay the foundations for Oakham’s victory over Long Buckby in Midlands 2 East (South) on Saturday.
The first-ever meeting between the two sides at the Showground was a real dogfight, but Oakham held out for a hard-earned 10-3 win.
Captain Will Armstrong led by example with the back row of Smith, James and Watkins and centres Dachtler and Fifield prominent in earning the Oaks valuable league points.
The wet and windy weather conditions did not bode well for the large crowd to be entertained with attractive running rugby.
Oakham kicked off, playing with the wind, and the pattern of the game was soon set with Buckby’s forwards playing a limited game of pick-and-drive in an attempt to overpower the home pack.
This tactic was effective in retaining possession, but the visitors were unable to make much headway against a well organised Oakham defence.
The game developed into an arm wrestle with Buckby driving forward and occasionally releasing to their backs who were well covered by Oakham’s midfield.
The Oaks then seized their chance with a clearance kick upfield which Buckby returned badly and Oakham centre Steve Dachtler latched onto the ball, breaking through tackles before drawing the visiting full back and passing to his supporting wing Owen Smith to cross under the posts.
The try was then converted by Callum Crellin to give Oakham a 7-0 lead after 17 minutes.
Buckby then hit back as they worked an overlap only to be denied a try by a superb tackle by full back Armstrong.
With continuous possession and, with their scrum dominating, the visitors were awarded a series of penalties, choosing the scrum option with the Oaks under pressure but, somehow, keeping Buckby at bay before the Northamptonshire side finally decided to go for goal.
The attempt hit the post and Oakham’s defence had won the day again, but it looked unlikely that the Rutlanders could hold out in the face of the relentless pressure.
A moment which might have swung the game in Buckby’s favour then came on 32 minutes when centre Dachtler made a huge tackle in midfield which stopped the Buckby attack in its tracks.
The referee considered he had lifted the tackled player and the Oakham centre was shown a yellow card and given 10 minutes in the sin-bin.
The resulting penalty was converted to leave the scores at 7-3.
Despite being a man short, Oakham’s forwards and backs continued to tackle and defend everything that Buckby could throw at them, somehow getting through to half-time without conceding further points.
The second half started in similar vein with Buckby camped in Oakham’s half, but they were unable to make their one-man advantage tell as the home pack were defending the continuous pick-and-drive tactic well.
Buckby were then awarded another penalty but the attempt at goal sailed wide and the scoreline remained unchanged at 7-3.
Oakham were back to full strength with the return of centre Dachtler three minutes into the half and they made another break-out from their half with Crellin looking to have scored from a clever kick ahead.
However, the referee disallowed the try but penalised Buckby for offside and Crellin converted to increase Oakham’s lead to 10-3 with 20 minutes to go.
Buckby were still relentlessly retaining possession, hammering away at the Oakham defence with a series of line-outs and drives but they were continued to be denied by tenacious tackling.
The relentless nature of their play combined with Oakham’s ferocious tackling was having an effect on the Buckby players as they were starting to tire and the intensity of their attacks began to fade
Oakham finally broke the siege in the last few minutes and set up camp inside Buckby’s 22 before the final whistle went to signal a very hard-fought win.
n Oakham’s second XV were disappointingly let down by their opposition and had to cancel their game.
The seconds are at home to Aylestone St James on Saturday while the first team have a re-arranged game away to Belgrave.