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Oaks fall short at Chichester

Well ahead of the last scheduled cricket test match of the summer, the Mighty Oaks 1st XV set off on the mammoth road trip to Chichester RFC to take on one of the league’s new clubs. Chichester were relegated, perhaps unfortunately, last season and the word on the rugby street is that they have retained most of their players and are determined to get back to Premier South Rugby. If that is their intention they put down a strong marker in a professional, and at times adventurous, 28-10 victory over the visitors.

On a beautiful summers day, Oaks got the long coach journey out of their legs quickly as they attacked the Chichester 22 with purpose and some menace. Pressure often leads to points and debutant fly-half Jack Barker settled any nerves he may have had with a well struck penalty to put the Kent men 3-0 up. With 6 debutants in the Oaks ranks and a completely new midfield combination, it was always going to take Oaks time to settle and the more experienced Chichester side hit back with a well taken try on the right wing, having stretched the fierce Oaks defence, and a huge penalty to take an 8-3 lead.

It will come as a surprise if Chichester aren’t right up there in the promotion mix come April as they played like a national league team, with their big back row carrying well and their backs looking threatening once on the front foot, but Oaks were anything but over awed and with Suttie and, stand in skipper Derrick, taking the game back to the home side the battle was on.

Chichester then decided to take route one from a line out in the Oaks 22 (a result of one too many unnecessary penalties conceded by the visitors) and after a series of well-constructed drives they crashed over out wide and with the conversion missed the half time score saw the Sussex men 13-3 up.

Both sides scurried off to find shade under the trees as the heat increased but it was Oaks who found some fire in their belly’s straight after the restart. Barker, playing with the assuredness we have seen in pre-season, put the ball in the right places, Josh Penney at 13 made some great runs and the forwards, as a pack, matched their opponents in the set piece. From a great break by scrum half Goodhew, which was stopped very close to the line, Oaks attacked patiently edging closer and closer before winger Jonny Short took a superb line to crash over. With Barker adding the extras the game was in the balance at 13-10 to the home side.

Unfortunately the Oaks revival was to last only 7 minutes before Chichester attacked left and right with assuredness. Oaks defence had been immense all day and with the midfield knocking every attacker down the home side had to look to the wide expanses to look threatening. As they let the forwards crash the ball up to the Oaks right hand side the Chichester fly half took charge and executed a superb cross field kick which went over the head of the Oaks winger and into the grateful hands of his opposite number and the score stretched to 18-10. Sometimes you just have to applaud real skill and this was one of those moments!

A further penalty stretched the lead to 21-10 and a rampant Chichester side went on the hunt of a bonus try, which, when it came, was both excellent and harsh on the brave Oaks men. With the conversion missed the final score of 28-10 slightly flattered the hosts but Chichester were very good for their win and, based on our experience of the league last season, it will take a very good side to stop them.

For the Sevenoaks boys there was a huge amount to build on and Head Coach Adam Bowman was so right when he said “We are nearly there”. Oaks played some lovely rugby at times but we will reflect on how to get behind a team like Chichester who displayed consistent, aggressive defence, and we will move on, learn and build on this’ Sevenoaks 1st XV next match is at home to local rivals Maidstone RFC 1st XV. Kick off is at 3pm at the Paddock.

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