Bonus point haul could be vital for Oaks in relegation battle
Oakham saw a remarkable victory snatched from their grasp after a storming second-half display in Saturday's home Midlands 2 East (South) clash with Bugbrooke.
The relegation-threatened Oaks had looked to be heading for defeat when they trailed their visitors 24-5 at half-time at the Showground.
However, a sensational performance after the break saw Oakham level the match with just two minutes remaining.
But, in their desperation to win the ball at a ruck, they conceded a penalty 35 metres out which the Bugbrooke scrum-half duly converted to make the final score 34-37.
Oakham's players slumped to the ground as the final whistle went but, despite the loss, had earned the vital bonus point which looked very unlikely at half-time and might yet prove crucial in the final run-in.
Having lost their last league game combined with their rivals gaining unexpected victories, Oakham found themselves next-to-bottom and four points adrift of the three teams above them.
Welcoming Bugbrooke to the Showground the hosts knew it would not be an easy task to get a victory against a side lying six places above them.
Oakham showed some promising play in the opening 10 minutes and forced Bugbrooke to defend their line as the Oaks looked for an early score.
Bugbrooke turned over ball, cleared upfield to touch and, with their first bit of possession, the visitors set up a driving maul before moving the ball quickly to the right wing who accelerated away rounding several would-be Oakham tackles before scoring a fine individual try. The conversion was missed to leave the hosts trailing 0-5 with 12 minutes played.
Oakham had been warned of the pace and power evident in Bugbrooke’s back three but, in trying to exit their 22, a poor clearance kick went straight to the visiting dangermen.
A swift counter-attack sent the ball to their right wing who again showed his finishing skills, leaving defenders in his wake as he cruised in for another try under the posts. The conversion made the score 0-12 after 15 minutes.
Despite this Oakham were still in the game and creating chances. Finally, after camping on the Bugbrooke line for several minutes, they worked some space for young wing Olly Moore to cut inside his man and score an unconverted try and make it 5-12.
Oakham again went on the attack but Bugbrooke’s defence held out in a series of drives close to their line and then, as on previous occasions, eventually turned the ball over and kicked deep downfield in to home territory.
There looked to be no danger as two Oakham players went for the ball, but Bugbrooke’s left wing, following up at pace, somehow found space to nip in between them, scooping the ball up to cross for an unconverted try in the corner which made it 5-17.
Bugbrooke were now getting on top and looked dangerous whenever their backs had the ball.
They again made inroads deep into the Oakham 22 before their scrum half cleverly chipped over the advancing backline for their centre to run onto the ball and score a converted try near the posts which made it 5-24 just before half-time.
The Oaks knew they were up against it but started the second half well as they camped within 10 metres of the Bugbrooke line.
Despite valiant efforts they did not look to have the cutting edge to break the Bugbrooke defence. Once again, a familiar patter emerged as the Oaks were penalised at the breakdown. This handed Bugbrooke an opportunity to kick deep into Oakham territory.
From the lineout they moved the ball into midfield and their centre cut back inside to carve the Oakham defence open and score under the posts.
It looked all over for Oakham at 5-31 adrift, barring a Scotland-like recovery, however, the players still believed something could be salvaged.
The revival started with Oakham again dominating a scrum close to the Bugbrooke line without taking full advantage as the forwards tried to force their way over before eventually spinning it wide for Tom Moxon to cross for a converted try to make it 12-31 with 20 minutes left to play.
Oakham spirits were further dampened when they conceded yet another penalty which Bugbrooke converted for 12-34.
Undaunted Oakham attacked again but Bugbrooke held out before eventually Ryan Corner forced his way over for a vital score, converted by Callum Crellin to make it 19-34 with 10 minutes still to play.
It looked to be too little too late but, with the crowd suddenly waking up that something might be on the cards, saw Oakham come full tilt at Bugbrooke who, almost England-like, were starting to miss tackles and suddenly appeared flustered.
Oakham, with their dominant scrum to the fore again, created more attacking space out to the right but couldn’t make it to the line.
Following a series of rucks Ben Turnbull finally drove over for a fine try. The conversion was missed but Oakham had hauled themselves back into the game at 24-34 with five minutes to play.
The Oaks were now sensing something special as, with one last effort, the mighty Stee Vukinavanua, who had run himself nearly to a standstill, summoned up the energy to crash through the Bugbrooke defence one more time and from 30 yards out sped away to the line, leaving would-be tacklers in his wake for a brilliant individual try under the posts. It was converted by Crellin to make it 31-34.
By this time with only minutes left the disbelieving spectators sensed a remarkable victory may be possible as they urged the players on for one last big effort.
Oakham were then awarded a penalty 30 metres out and Crellin coolly slotted the kick to draw the sides level.
Two minutes to go plus injury time – could Oakham conjure up one last effort and snatch the victory.
Unfortunately not as they conceded a penalty 35 metres out which the Bugbrooke scrum-half duly converted to make the final score 34-37.