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HomeRUGBYDefence holds strong as Oaks win at Westcombe Park

Defence holds strong as Oaks win at Westcombe Park

Deep into stoppage time at the end of a fiercely fought game, Sevenoaks and Westcombe Park were separated on the scoreboard only by two points; an earlier missed WP conversion attempt the difference. Both teams had each scored three tries and one penalty kick. The home team had an attacking scrum with the final play of the game on the Oaks five metre line, only to be turned over, concluding a 10-minute sequence of superb Oaks’ defence and securing the 22 – 24 victory.

During the season the men from the Paddock have shone with exciting attacking rugby, but this four-point London & SE Premier league win owed much to their excellent defending, against a very strong opponent. Westcombe Park arrived in great form and delivered a performance confirming they are certainly the most-improved team of the season. That said, credit must go to Sevenoaks who did sufficient in all areas of the pitch to win the game; demonstrating resilience, excellent organisation, and precision when scoring opportunities arose. They now sit 3rd in the league table, one point behind Hertford and Dorking.

Westcombe Park came out of the blocks quickly, requiring Oaks to scramble in defence in the first few minutes of the game, Westcombe Park eventually winning a penalty, scoring to make it 3-0 after three minutes. Oaks responded with their first meaningful foray into the Westcombe Park half after seven minutes, moving the ball across the backs, with Fotheringham dummying twice to make 35 metres, and passing to Johnny Short who, with work to do, finished well. An excellent conversion by Ben Adams made the score 3-7. From the restart the aggressive Westcombe Park defence, led by their no. 5, charged down the clearing Oaks’ kick and was adjudged to have grounded the ball with sufficient downward pressure to award the try. It was converted; 10-7 to Westcombe Park. The home team, helped by a strong following wind, built on their quick response with more territory and possession forcing Oaks to defend well.

The second quarter of the game saw Oaks find their rhythm, with good possession, playing in their opponents’ half. Unfortunately for the men from Plymouth Drive, with their backs moving the ball swiftly, Westcombe Park pressed and intercepted to run unopposed to score under the posts. The conversion made the score 17-7, leaving Oaks facing their biggest deficit in a game for some time. They responded with their best attacking passages of play of the day, dominating territory for the remainder of the half, making the most of their ascendant scrum. Their reward came in the 31st minute following a strong carry by McRae, the ball arrived with Patrick Pellegrini who dummied to break through the Westcombe Park defence and score under the posts; converted to make the score 17-14. Oaks finished the half strongly, but Westcombe Park defended well ensuring there were no further scores in the half.

Despite starting the second half with the wind at their backs, Oaks were forced to retreat for much of the opening moments, again defending well and kicking smartly to ease the Westcombe Park pressure. The game then settled into a phase of highly competitive midfield exchanges, with no one side dominating at the breakdown. Oaks’ scrum continued to put pressure on their opponents and Westcombe Park eventually infringed allowing the boot of Ben Adams to level the scores; 17-17 after 50 minutes. Ben was however unable to slot a longer penalty attempt from halfway, the ball falling short.

The sides then exchanged two quick tries, with Oaks’ aggressive defence forcing the Westcombe Park back line to fumble, allowing Ben Adams to pick up the loose ball and sprint 50 metres to score Oaks’ 3rd try of the day after 69 minutes; converted for Oaks to lead, 17-24. The sizeable travelling Paddock faithful began to breathe more easily and hoped for a bonus point 4th try, but to their credit Westcombe Park competed at the restart and from the lineout rumbled through the Oaks’ pack to score. Crucially, into the wind, the conversion was missed, leaving the score 22-24 after 72 minutes.

There then followed that excellent attacking spell from the home team, matched by superb defence from the visitors. Westcombe Park won a series of penalties allowing them to dominate both territory and possession in these final moments. On the 80-minute mark to the relief of Blue and Golds, the Westcombe Park kicker failed in a three-point attempt, before that final scrum of the day saw Oaks force the error and win the game.

After a very tense day at the office, Director of Rugby and Head Coach Adam Bowman commented: “Well that was a serious battle out there today. We were tested against a much-improved Westcombe Park side who has been on a very impressive run. We were not at our best today and had a very high error count throughout the game which we must look to improve. However, we dug deep and just got the job done. I must say the character and desire shown by the players when defending in the final 15 minutes was just unbelievable! Onto the next one …”

This weekend Sevenoaks are at home against Sutton & Epsom.

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