Oaks overturn second half deficit with last-gasp winner
Oakham snatched a dramatic injury-time victory as they recorded a 29-30 away win at Bugbrooke in Saturday's Midlands 2 East (South) clash.
The Oaks overturned a 24-15 second half deficit with a rousing finale which saw their winning try come with just two minutes of injury-time remaining.
The Rutland side had travelled to their Northamptonshire hosts with another much-changed side due to late call-offs.
Despite the constant team changes, recent results had pointed to steady progress being made.
But with Bugbrooke sitting comfortably in mid-table an away win for the Oaks looked, on paper, to be a tough ask.
Despite the heavy morning rain, the pitch was in good condition and the light breeze blowing across the pitch was not favouring either side.
From the kick-off Oakham made some good ground before spilling the ball in the tackle.
Bugbrooke seized on the loose ball and, after a couple of forward drives, managed to work an overlap for their quick, elusive right wing to show his pace as he evaded several tacklers on his way for the opening score which was well converted giving the hosts a 7-0 lead with less than five minutes on the clock.
Oakham hit back from the restart as Stee Vukinanvanua and Ed Balmford made good ground before Bugbrooke were penalised. Callum Crellin struck the kick through the posts to narrow the deficit to 7-3.
The visitors were finding it difficult to maintain possession as they constantly lost control whereas their opponents tested the Oaks defence whenever they had the ball.
Oakham were testing the patience of the referee as he gave a string of penalties to Bugbrooke - fortunately for the visitors none of the resulting kicks at goal were translated into points.
Oakham were starting to get a foothold in the game but then, and not for the first time this season, an aimless kick into midfield enabled Bugbrooke to run the ball back.
They moved left and then switched play right for their dangerous winger to outflank the Oaks defence and sprint clear, crossing in the corner before rounding to score near the posts for a 14-3 advantage.
The Oaks then seized the game as they drove at the Bugbrooke defence, Vukinavanua and Balmford once again making good ground before Will Armstrong took the move on only to be tackled just short.
From the ensuing scrum number eight Balmford broke from the base before flipping the ball up to scrum half Crellin who drove over for a try to make it 14-8.
Oakham were now playing with some confidence and with five minutes plus injury time to go were awarded a penalty
Crellin kicked to touch on the opposition 22 where the Oaks won the line-out and moved the ball infield.
Vukinavanua and Balmford again made ground across the gain line before flanker Dan Sanderson drove through the defence to score, converted by Crellin to put the Oaks ahead 14-15.
With the first half deep into injury time, Oakham contrived to lose the ball when attempting to run out of their own 22.
Bugbrooke then set up a series of drives, close to the visitors' line, however Oakham somehow managed to win turnover ball.
The clearing kick was charged down with the loose ball being seized on by Bugbrooke to score an unconverted try to make it 19-15 at half-time.
Oakham had it all to do in the second half and started brightly by driving out of their 22 before an intended off load was intercepted.
Bugbooke quickly moved the ball wide to their flying wing who set off down the touchline, stepping past several tackles on his way to the try line for his third try and a 24-15 lead.
Oakham were in danger of letting their opponents get away from them but another barnstorming run from Vukinavanua set up a position for Armstrong to cut through the defence to score, bringing the Oaks right back into the game at 24-20.
It was becoming very tense but, once again, Oakham conceded a try as Bugbrooke’s winger again found some space, skating past defenders on his way to the line for 29-20.
The Oaks gathered themselves again and forced themselves with a series of pick and drives ever closer to the Bugbrooke line.
It was now Bugbrooke's turn to concede penalties as they desperately fought to keep Oakham out.
From a penalty replacement Jaime Bullet took a quick tap and manged to put Balmford over for an unconverted try which made it 29-25.
The match was going into injury time as Oakham laid siege to the Bugbrooke line again.
However, the hosts were repelling everything that Oakham could throw at them and, with time running out, it looked as though the Oaks had run out of ideas.
One last wave of forward drives finally sucked in enough Bugbrooke defenders to create an overlap for Oakham’s wing to score in the corner.
The difficult conversion was missed to leave the Oaks ahead 29-30 with two minutes of injury time left.
That two minutes seemed to last forever with the Oakham supporters getting increasingly nervous as Bugbrooke attempted to run the ball.
The attack was finally halted by Oakham as their pack crucially managed to turn the ball over at the breakdown.
The ball was quickly re-cycled to Crellin who gleefully kicked it out of play as the final whistle blew.
This was a great team effort from the Oakham boys in securing a tremendously hard-fought, but vital, away win.
Oakham 2nds travelled to face their Lutterworth counterparts on Saturday with a much-depleted squad with players getting late call ups to the first team.
With only 12 players, Lutterworth lent them one player so they played the match with Oakham's 13 players against Lutterworth's 14 players.
It looked like it was going to be a hard afternoon for the Oaks after they conceded four tries early, but their determination and team spirit saw them fight back strongly to get within one point of their opponents.
Some great backline play saw tries from Dan Watkins, Tom Cole, Zak Smale and Suli before the extra man told late in the day as Lutterworth ran in two late tries for a 36-25 victory.
It was a superb effort from all the players who made the trip and they all had an enjoyable afternoon of rugby.
Oakham: Brian Sampson, Paul Hern, Tom McDavid, George Knight, Joff Ward, Matt Lamin, Tom Cole, Dan Watkins, Sule Israel, Zak Smale, Jonty Collins, Ben Lancashire.