Oaks coach must shuffle pack for big test

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Oaks coach Tom Armstrong will be forced to field a makeshift front row in Saturday’s crucial tie against Bakewell Mannerians.

A win could lift Oakham into second spot in the Midlands 2 East (North) but the Bakewell fixture may be one of the Oaks’ toughest tests yet.

Oakham RFC v Nottingham Casuals RFC.'Photo: MSMP020213-016ow

Oakham RFC v Nottingham Casuals RFC.'Photo: MSMP020213-016ow

Although the Mannerians are a little off the pace of the leading sides, a win would resurrect their promotion chase with a game in hand. And, as Armstrong knows from experience, Bakewell is never an easy place for visiting teams.

“It’s always a hard place to go,” he said. “You never know which pitch you will be on and you have to be prepared to adapt.”

Add to that the absences from his regular first choice pack and any kind of victory would be a massive boost to Oakham’s bid for the promotion play-offs.

“We are OK in all areas except for the front row. Ryan Corner, Rhys Grieve and Alun Meadows - all front row - will all be out,” said Armstrong who may even play himself in the front row.

“Other than that we will be fine and I would still fancy ourselves.

“They usually have a decent set of backs much like us but our pack has improved.

“We’ve had a couple join us at training and Joe Clarke will probably start as prop. It’s a chance for lads to take their opportunity.”

Last Saturday, Oakham cruised to a 36-10 victory against Nottingham Casuals, running in four tries without reply in the first half.

Tom Burton opened the scoring in the fifth minute and Armstrong crossed over for Oakham’s second try just 10 minutes later.

Scrum half Joe Lunn then scored a quick hat-trick with two tries just before half-time and a third 10 minutes after the interval, one of which the Oakham coach described as “a great individual try”.

Mark Matthews kicked the remaining points while winger Adam Stimson, who set up two of Lunn’s tries, was named man of the match. Casuals, who are only one place off the bottom, only added their points late in the game. But despite what appears a comfortable win, Armstrong wants more.

“We did not play awfully well,” he said. “We should have taken about 50 or 60 points.

“We looked a bit sluggish after two weeks off and it would have been nice to have kept a clean sheet but at least we got the bonus point.”

After trips to Bakewell and Melton, the Oaks’ next home game is not until March 2 with the visit of Dronfield.

Oakham (v Casuals): Adam price, Alun Meadows, Ryan Corner, Phil Gant, James Beanland, Carel Fourie (Martin Stimson), Angus Boyle (Ben Turnbull), Joe Lunn, Mark Matthews, Dave Wiggin, Tom Armstrong (Liam Parker), Tom Burton, Adam Stimson, Will Armstrong.