THE Oaks won their opening fixture of 2012 but without the bonus point that could prove crucial in the race for promotion at the end of the season.
Oakham beat Ashbourne 15-11 with Mark Matthews and Will Armstrong both scoring tries but with Market Bosworth picking up a bonus point at Aylestone, the gap between second and third has opened to eight points.
“It was not a vintage performance by any stretch of the imagination,” said Oaks coach Adam Copperwheat, who was even less impressed by the referee’s performance.
Oakham picked up three yellow cards, two of which Copperwheat considered dubious decisions.
“All coaches are after is a bit of consistency,” he said.
“It can be very frustrating. We work on technical areas of our game but then get penalised and I can’t see from the sidelines what we are being penalised for.
“The lads could easily have lost their rag but there were some very mature performances.”
On a sticky, boggy pitch Oakham fell behind early on but soon responded with a try scored and converted by Matthews.
Ashbourne kicked to within a point and then took advantage of sloppy Oakham defending to score a try themselves and open up an 11-7 lead.
But again, the Oaks fought back. Matthews kicked Oakham to within a point and with 20 minutes remaining Armstrong crossed over for Oakham’s second try.
The final period of the game became a backs-to-the-wall effort from Oakham, who were repeatedly penalised for infringements. After only conceding half a dozen penalties in the previous 60 minutes, they gave away 16 in the space of 20 minutes.
Among the trio of cards was another for Tom Armstrong, whose uncompromising style of tackling is fast earning a fearsome reputation. But his coach defended him saying: “I have no trouble with the way he tackles. We need someone like that. He doesn’t tackle late or high but he does tackle hard.”
Copperwheat added: “Mark Matthews scored a great individual try. He took on their defence, threw them a dummy and side-stepped their fullback to score. He has come back from injury very well.”
Matthews converted his own try and kicked a penalty before Will Armstrong surged down the line to score the vital try.
The Oaks coach insists that promotion remains on the cards but knows that Oakham may well require results elsewhere to go in their favour even if they embark on a strong winning run.
First up is the physical challenge of Aylestone St James at Oakham Showground this Saturday and that is followed, after a week’s break, by a trip to Leicester Forest.
The Oaks coach is determined that his side remains in contention until they play promotion rivals Bosworth late in March and said: “These are two winnable games but we need to turn up and play the right way.
“Promotion was our season’s goal and we have not given up on that but we are focusing on getting our performances right.”
Oakham’s game against Aylestone starts at 2.15pm on Saturday. The 2nd XV face Bosworth’s 2nd XV in the Leicestershire League’s first division at home at the same time.
Midlands 2 East (North)
P W D L F A BP Pts
Newark 12 12 0 0 546 84 10 58
Mkt Bosworth 12 10 0 2 307 182 9 49
Oakham 12 9 0 3 306 202 5 41
Bakewell Manns 11 7 1 3 330 189 5 35
Nottingham Cas 12 6 1 5 270 303 7 33
Ashbourne 12 6 0 6 248 225 6 30
Belgrave 11 6 0 5 213 234 5 29
Melton Mowbray 12 5 0 7 186 273 4 24
Leicester Forest 12 3 1 8 193 242 4 18
Aylestone St J 12 3 0 9 166 308 4 16
Nott’m Moderns 12 2 1 9 173 444 2 12
West Bridgford 12 0 0 12 170 422 5 5
Results: Ashbourne 11 - 15 Oakham; Aylestone St James 24 - 30 Market Bosworth; Leicester Forest 19 - 5 Nottingham Moderns; Newark 39 - 3 Melton Mowbray; Nottingham Casuals 31 - 24 West Bridgford.