Slow start stalls Oakham as second half revival falls short
An improved second half showing failed to lift Oakham as they fell to a 22-7 away defeat at S&L Corby in their Midlands 2 East (South) clash on Saturday.
Despite having the strong wind in their favour and playing down the slope in the opening period, Oakham found themselves 12-0 down after 30 minutes of the contest.
They managed to reduce the arrears after the break, but then failed to capitalise as the hosts used the elements in their favour late on to secure their first victory of the season.
Oakham kicked off but were immediately put back on their heels, missing first up tackles and allowing a strong running S&L side to get behind their defence early on.
Despite their defence being under huge pressure, Oakham somehow managed to turn the ball over and Callum Crellin relieved the danger with a fine clearance kick to touch.
The respite was short lived as S&L again broke through Oakham tackles, offloading well to create good continuity of possession.
Oakham were struggling to get into the game and with their scrum under pressure their opponents worked a slick back row move down the blindside to put their strong running wing into space.
He ran directly at the Oakham defence before cutting inside, avoiding several would be tacklers before scoring an excellent try.
The conversion was missed as Oakham found themselves 5-0 down having hardly touched the ball in the opening 13 minutes.
From the kick-off Oakham at last found themselves in possession, making good ground into the S&L 22 before being bundled into touch.
The Oaks were unable to capitalise as S&L turned the ball over once again before breaking upfield and driving into the visitors’ 22 where they remained camped as the Rutland side desperately defended their line against a wave of attacks.
The pressure eventually told as, with a series of line-out catch and drives, S&L sucked in the Oakham defence before moving the ball into the centre to crash over near the posts. The conversion was made for a 12-0 lead with 30 minutes played.
Oakham attempted to get back into a game which was drifting away from them with a good attack which ended with wing Charlie McKee being bundled into touch just short of the line.
The Oaks launched a series of drives and back attacks without really looking like breaking the S&L defensive line.
Their attacks were not helped by passes going astray with poor handling leading to turnover ball.
The whistle went for half time with the Oaks knowing they had to improve their performance in the second half if they were to get anything out of the game, especially as they were now playing up the slope and into the wind.
Coach Bill Kingdom rang the changes at half-time with Stee Vukinavanua being introduced to give Oakham some ‘go forward’ ball.
However, it was S&L who made the first inroads of the second half as they worked their way into Ockham’s 22 before forcing the visitors to concede a penalty.
It looked a straightforward kick, but Oakham were let off lightly as the ball struck the post and they cleared upfield.
Vukinavanua then started to make his presence felt with a series of barnstorming runs which put S&L on the back foot for the first time in the game.
Oakham were now getting back into the game but, despite hammering away at the S&L line, great defensive work from the hosts was keeping them out.
Oakham were sucked into an arm wrestle by a much bigger pack but eventually realised this was not going to work and changed tactic as they swung the ball wide to find James Beanland lurking on the wing.
He still had work to do but stepped inside several defenders before forcing his way over for an excellent try. A fine conversion, against the wind, by Callum Crellin narrowed the gap to 12-7 with 25 minutes remaining in the second half.
Oakham once again were guilty of sloppy play as they failed to secure possession from the kick off.
S&L then launched a series of attacks before Oakham conceded another penalty at the breakdown. This time the hosts made sure of the three points to lead 15-7.
Oakham had their chances as the game swung from end to end but neither side could capitalise.
S&L were now using the wind and slope cleverly, continuously putting Oakham on the back foot deep inside their own half.
Oakham attempted to counter attack but were punished as a chip ahead went straight to S&L defenders who then put their wing away down the touchline.
Great cover defence from Oakham prevented the try but S&L kept up the pressure before forcing their way over. The try was converted to prevent Oakham having any chance of snatching victory at 22-7.
Oakham did try desperately to close the gap in the final minutes but were unable to break their opponents stubborn defence as S&L ran out 22-7 winners.
Oakham host mid-table Belgrave in the Midlands 2 East (South) at the Showground on Saturday.