More than 100 points scored after feast of attacking rugby
Oakham were outscored after a feast of attacking rugby produced more than 100 points in Saturday's Midlands 2 East (South) showdown at Market Harborough.
The Rutlanders ran in 43 points against their second-placed hosts who maintained their fine form with a 64-point return.
Following their impressive home win last week, Oakham suffered a mixture of unavailability and injuries that, not for the first time this season, forced coach Alun Meadows to revamp his team selection.
Oakham took the lead after just five minutes as Callum Crellin kicked a penalty from 40 metres out for a 0-3 advantage.
They then saw a promising move break down as the ball was spilled and, from what looked a situation posing no threat, Harborough’s left-wing Basra scooped up the ball, broke through the defence, kicked ahead and regathered the ball for a well taken converted try.
Oakham were then hit with two tries in quick succession to trail 21-3.
First a loose Oakham pass was picked up by Harborough’s excellent scrum half Purnell who burst through several tackles before wrong-footing full-back Will Armstrong to score under the posts.
This was followed rapidly by some excellent offloading and support play by Harborough to cross for another try with barely 20 minutes played.
It was looking ominous for Oakham as they lost flanker Ben Turnbull and prop Ed McFarlane in quick succession.
However, Oakham were undaunted and, following a series of forward drives, replacement Jaime Ray forced his way over for a try which was converted by Crellin.
Sam Janes then pinned Harborough deep into their 22 with a searching kick and, from the line-out, Oakham drove at the line before moving the ball to the backs.
Fly half Alex Laybourne then slipped a lovely pass to prop Rhys Grieve who galloped through the gap to the line. The try converted was by Crellin to make it 21-17 with 27 minutes played.
Oakham were right back in the game, but Harborough then stopped the visitors' momentum with another excellent try, showing some crisp handling for wing Basra to outpace the Oaks' defence and cross in at the corner for an unconverted try.
The Oaks were then again caught napping as Harborough’s electric scrum half, Purnell, weaved his way past several tacklers before leaving Armstrong clutching thin air as he side-stepped past him for a converted try which made it 33-17 five minutes before half-time.
The Oaks, showing great resilience, responded with a try of their own as a lightening break by scrum half Crellin saw him stopped just short of the line.
The ball was recycled and Laybourne, seeing wing Kieran Hatcher-Devlin in space, kicked wide for the youngster to catch the ball while running at full pace for a brilliant try, converted from wide out by Crellin to close the first half at 33-24.
The large crowd of spectators had been treated to some brilliant attacking rugby from both sides albeit, according to some old heads in the crowd, helped by some questionable tackling, but all spectators wanting more of the same after the break.
From the kick-off Harborough again put the visitors under pressure before, not for the first time, their scrum half Purnell broke through before eventually being halted.
The ball was recycled for their left-wing Basra to accelerate away for his third converted try and make it 40-24.
Oakham fell further behind barely 10 minutes into the second half as a missed tackle allowed a simple break by their centre who then accelerated away for another try.
A determined Oakham hit back yet again as, following a series of forward attacks, scrum half Crellin floated a long pass to wing Hatcher Devlin who somehow squeezed over in the corner to make it 45-29.
Harborough were in no mood to allow Oakham back into the game and, following yet another break in the centre, left wing Basra was on hand to add his fourth try which was well converted.
At the kick off Crellin spotted space on the right, struck low and Oakham right wing Hatcher-Devlin seized on the ball, making a great run before being tackled just short.
The ball was recycled through the forwards several times before scrum half Crellin spotted a gap at the breakdown and dived over for a converted try.
This only stung Harborough into action again as, from a scrum 25 metres out, their number eight broke right and galloped unopposed to the posts for another converted score which made it 57-36.
In response and not to be outdone, Oakham produced a fine handling move of their own which almost saw captain Armstrong to the line before being brought down just short.
Oakham quickly moved the ball to centre Jonno Milnes who stepped past two tacklers before crossing for a converted try.
Remarkedly with still 10 minutes to go another Oakham score would see them in losing bonus point territory with a score of 50 points.
Sadly for Oakham, Harborough’s had the final say as, from a scrum, simple passing along the backline created an overlap for wing Basra to evade Armstrong’s despairing tackle and score his fifth try making the final score 64-43.
Nobody from the large crowd of spectators could remember a game where more than a hundred points had been scored and one side had scored 43 points and lost.
A great feast of attacking rugby for the spectators was provided by both teams but perhaps both coaches were left to ponder some of the defending.
Oakham: Grieve, Stimson, McFarlane, Watkins, Thraves, Turnbull, Mitchell, Beanland, C Crellin, Laybourne, Hatcher-Devlin, Janes, Milnes, McKee, Armstrong. Reps: Rawlinson, Ray, L Crellin.