Oakham Rugby Club are victorious in Midlands 3 East (South) derby duel with Stamford
Oakham are the new leaders of Midlands 3 East (South) after they knocked Stamford off top spot following victory in Saturday's derby duel.
The Rutland side ran out 30-8 winners in the eagerly-awaited clash which was watched by a large crowd at Hambleton Road.
It was Oakham's seventh successive league win and puts them two points clear of a Stamford side who had gone into the game on the back of a five-match winning streak which had seen them named team of the month by Rugby World.
Oakham won the toss and cleverly chose to play up the slope and against the wind in the first half, knowing that if they could keep the hosts to within two scores at half-time they would be able to take advantage themselves of the elements in the second half and make up any deficit.
It was the visitors that applied immediate pressure from the kick off, gaining good ground and from an attacking scrum scored the first try with only a few minutes on the clock.
Oakham were in determined mood, getting into their stride from the outset as fly half Callum Crellin made an electric break deep into Stamford territory to set up an attacking position for the Oaks.
Desperate defending by Stamford led them to concede a penalty where a confident Oakham opted for the scrum before setting up series of pick and drives leading to number eight James Beanland blasting over in the corner for an unconverted try.
Stamford came back at their visitors and some good forward drives resulted in two quick penalties but they were unable to make them count.
It was now Oakham's turn to defend a scrum ten metres out, however, when the hosts were penalised for wheeling the scrum, the Oaks were gleefully able to relieve the pressure.
Oakham were looking very comfortable with ball in hand while Stamford were struggling to get a foothold in the game.
That suddenly changed when Stamford took a quick a tap penalty and then attacked down the narrow side, catching the Oakham defence by surprise and short of numbers.
Robbie Smith led the break on the blind side before releasing Rees Burns on a touchline run that took him all the way to the try line to bring the score back to 5-5.
Oakham responded by upping the tempo of their game, offloading and interposing by the forwards allowing them to make good ground into Stamford’s 22.
When Town stepped offside, they kicked the resulting penalty to take a slender lead through Crellin's effort from in front of the posts.
The game swung back again as Stamford began to enjoy a period of sustained possession themselves but were unable to find a way through Oakham’s rock-solid defence.
Openside flanker Nick Haughton and his back-row colleagues John Mitchell and James Beanland led the way by making tackle after tackle for the Oaks and preventing Stamford creating any sustained forward momentum.
It wasn’t long before Stamford got back level again though, using Parker and Griffin to make the hard yards and, when Oakham transgressed, Oli Johnson kicked the penalty to make it 8-8.
The game continued at a high pace with both sides fully committed and, on the half-hour mark, Oakham set up a driving maul which they drove deep into Stamford territory before being halted by the hosts finally pulling the maul down.
The penalty was kicked to touch and then, winning the lineout, the Oaks piled on the pressure as the outstanding Nick Haughton drove over to score an unconverted try.
Stamford tried to hit back but some handling errors along with hard Oakham tackling prevented any response and the score remained at 8-13 into half-time.
The second half saw Oakham with the wind and slope advantage and they upped the intensity of the game.
They began to implement their game plan by using the slope and wind to pin Stamford deep in their own 22.
Stamford’s Ian Downer was yellow carded for a technical infringement and the penalty was converted by Crellin to take the score to 8-16.
The visitors were now getting the upper hand and Stamford were on the back foot with both sets of forwards looking for an advantage.
The Oaks upped the tempo again from the kick-off with backs and forwards combining to hammer away at the Stamford line with only a determined defensive effort from the hosts preventing any further score.
Eventually, on the 60-minute mark, a fine break by Oakham centre Jimmy Rosillo saw him hauled down just short of the line.
With the Stamford defence sucked into midfield a quick miss-pass by the Oakham backline left winger Ben Shepherd unmarked to run in for a try.
It was converted by Crellin leaving Oakham comfortably 8-23 ahead with 20 minutes to go.
Coach Alun Meadows then introduced fresh legs to the attack with Ben Turnbull replacing captain Phil Gant in the second row and young Will Andrews taking over from Charlie McKee in the centre.
The game was effectively won but the Oaks were seeking a bonus point try and continued trying everything to get themselves over the line.
Oakham had Stamford under pressure and Town could not break out of their own half but a heroic defensive line saw them hold the Oaks until the final moments when a scrum was awarded to the visitors 25 metres out.
Oakham had one final chance to get the bonus point try and their backs then cleverly executed a first phase strike move with young centre Andrews feinting to go outside the defence before switching a lovely reverse pass to full back Will Armstrong coming at full pace on his inside.
Armstrong broke through the defensive line before drawing the full back and sending wing Tom Easson speeding over for a cleverly-worked try.
Rounding things off in style the try was brilliantly converted from the touchline by Crellin to seal an emphatic victory for the Oaks after a hard-fought contest.
Both clubs will be looking to take their games on for the remainder of the league programme knowing that they will both be there if one or the other slips up.
Oakham also edged a cracking second team clash after running out 29-32 winners to cap a great day for the Rutland club.
More by this authorJames Bedford