Oakham RFC jumped up the table in the Midlands Two East South division on Saturday after beating strugglers Olney 15-13 at the Showground.
The Oaks were looking to keep their momentum going after earning their first victory of the 2015/16 campaign last time out with a 25-20 victory over Vipers.
At the start of the day both teams were at the foot of the table and desperate for league points and targeting the encounter as a “must win” game.
However after a tight 80 minutes which saw both sides determined not to lose it was the hosts who were left smiling and up to seventh in the table.
From the early exchanges it was clear Oakham’s scrum had the upper hand on their opponents. Despite this advantage Oakham could not put together a sustained attack, creating half chances but unable to completely break the determined Olney defence.
Both sides put themselves in good positions but could not take advantage until, with 20 minutes gone, an incisive break by Callum Crellin into the Olney 22 enabled Oakham to at last breakthrough as James Padley came infield from the opposite wing to receive a slick inside pass and crash over for an excellent try,.
The effort was converted by Crellin to give Oakham the lead at 7-0.
From the kick off Olney clawed back points as they were awarded a penalty following an Oakham offside infringement to make the score 7-3. Oakham attacked from the kick off again and, despite having sustained possession near to Olney’s line, failed to break their defence. This was partly of Oakham’s own making as they continued to spread the ball wide with miss passes making it easy for Olney’s drift defence to cope. Oakham were nearly made to pay for failing to take attacking opportunities as Olney were awarded a very kickable penalty but it was missed - a huge let off.
Oakham continued to dominate the scrum but, despite fine breaks by Crellin and Padley, were unable to make the final pass count to create the score. The continued pressure from Oakham finally told as Olney were penalised at the breakdown allowing Crellin to kick the penalty for a 10-3 half time lead.
The second half saw a determined fight back by Olney as they mounted a series of attacks on the Oakham line which the hosts managed to defend only to give away a penalty, converted by Olney for 10-6 with ten minutes played in the second half.
From another dominant scrum, and Olney being shunted backwards, Oakham number eight James Beanland broke unopposed down the blindside then chipping over the full back just failed to make the touchdown ahead of Olney’s covering wing.
From the ensuing dropout Oakham recovered the ball and good support play by Dan Watkins enabled him to cross the line to give Oakham a deserved 15 – 6 lead with 15 minutes to go. Olney were not giving up and from a good cross-field kick their wing just failed to gather the ball before it rolled into touch. The alarm bells were ringing for Oakham and from the ensuing lineout the bouncing ball was hacked through and only a last ditch tackle by Nick Houghton saved Oakham but saw him penalised for taking out man and ball.
Olney set up a maul which they drove over out wide, which was well converted from the touchline to make the score 15-13. This set up a nervy last few minutes for Oakham who held on to the final whistle in a game in which they had enough chances to have put well beyond their opponents.
Despite the narrow score-line Oakham were delighted to have gained more league points enabling them to climb out of the bottom three.
It was a victory built on a dominant performance from the Oakham front row together with excellent debut games for Ryan Thwaites and Neil Hart, solid performance from James Padley, a welcome return from injury for James Beanland and with another fine game by Crellin meant it was not all doom and gloom against an Olney side fighting every inch of the way to get off bottom spot.