Oakham had victory snatched from their grasp in the dying seconds as they shared the spoils with in-form Olney after a 15-15 draw at the Showground on Saturday.
The home side were left devastated as Olney took full advantage of James Beanland being down injured and the referee allowing play to continue as they used the extra man to create an overlap to score in the corner in the final seconds.
However, Olney failed to rub salt in the Oakham wounds when the conversion – which would have won them the game – was missed.
Oakham went into the Midlands 2 East (South) match in good form against a visiting side who had beaten league leaders Oadby and high-flying Luton in their recent outings.
Kicking off into a strong wind, Oakham regained possession early on, using their forwards to help drive Olney upfield.
They then attempted to move the ball wide but a huge miss-pass bounced nicely for the Olney full-back to seize the loose ball and put his winger on a run to the line.
A great cover tackle by Callum Crellin prevented a certain try but then, from the resulting ruck, Onley’s forwards crashed over for a try.
The conversion was missed and Oakham found themselves 0-5 down with barely a minute on the clock.
Not to be deterred Oakham hit back almost immediately, using their forwards to drive at Olney before Beanland hit a good line to break through the defence before passing on to centre Leon Fifield who rounded the full back to score.
Crellin kicked a wonderful conversion against the strong wind to give Oakham a 7-5 lead after five minutes.
Both sides were playing well as they tested each other’s defence but they were unable to break each other down.
The match ebbed to and fro, first with Olney threatening to score then Oakham responding and nearly getting over themselves. It was a tight affair with some quality rugby being played.
Oakham were starting to exert the more sustained pressure as they worked their way into the Olney 22.
Eventually the pressure told and Olney conceded a penalty to the left of the posts. It was not an easy kick against the strong wind, but Crellin again showed his value to the side as he sent it between the posts to put the Oaks 10-5 up on the 30-minute mark.
Olney then laid siege to the Oakham line and only some dogged defence prevented a score.
Oakham looked to have eased the pressure as they were awarded a scrum five metres out with a chance to clear their lines.
They then put the pressure back on themselves as the referee awarded Olney a free kick for a non-straight put in.
This time Oakham could not keep the visitors out and Olney forced their way over for an unconverted try to make the scores at 10-10 on the stroke of half-time.
Olney started the second half in determined mood and Oakham were having to defend well to keep them at bay.
The Oaks were then awarded a penalty, Jamie Bullett attempted to run but the defence had not retreated. The Olney scrum half was sin-binned which was to cost them shortly afterwards.
Oakham made their way upfield before losing the ball in the tackle. Olney had the put in at the scrum but, with their scrum half off the field and a player in an unfamiliar position, Bullett scooped up the ball as it emerged from Olney’s scrum and scooted over the line for a fine opportunist try.
With the wind behind and to everyone’s surprise the conversion was missed by Crellin to leave the score at 15-10 with six minutes played in the second half.
The game was turning into an absorbing spectacle with both sides having opportunities to score but unable to take them as last-ditch tackles went in.
Oakham had a chance to seal the game as Beanland seized on a tap down from the Olney line-out but, just when he thought he would score, the ball was dislodged from his hands.
At the other end Olney drove over the Oakham line only to be held up.
With 15 minutes to go Oakham lost prop Adam Price with cramp and this seemed to unsettle the home scrum which had held the upper hand until then.
Olney were putting pressure on Oakham and the Oaks were defending for their lives to prevent a score.
Another injury, this time to prop Ryan Corner, saw Price return having recovered from cramp.
The Oaks’ valiant defensive effort looked to be enough as Olney were forced to attempt a chip kick over the home side’s solid defence.
The kick was marked by full back Will Armstrong, but the referee had seen an earlier infringement to award a penalty to Olney in the dying seconds.
Beanland was down injured but the referee allowed play to continue and Olney drove at the Oakham defence before spreading wide and used the extra man to create an overlap to score in the corner.
Oakham were devastated but it could have been worse, players and crowd holding their breath as the conversion attempt fell short of the posts to make the final score 15-15 as the final whistle blew.