Oakham RFC won the battle of Midlands Two East South’s midtable sides on Saturday with a 19-10 victory over Belgrave at a spirited Showground.
Oakham kicked off into a stiff breeze and early exchanges saw Belgrave looking sharp, turning the Oaks around with clever chip kicks from their scrum half. Things looked a little ominous as Oakham were shunted backwards in the first scrum, conceding a penalty 25 metres out which was comfortably converted to give Belgrave an early lead 0 -3.
Oakham started to settle into the game and created some good line breaks only to see the final pass go astray. But the hosts continued to press and worked the ball well to within a few metres of the Belgrave line, but as the players were bundled into touch scrum half Johnno Milnes went down and following a neck injury took no further part in proceedings. This caused Oakham to shuffle their backline. Oakham again put pressure on the Belgrave line and were awarded a penalty on 23 minutes for repeated infringement by Belgrave at the breakdown. Nick Wackwitz converted to level the scores at 3-3.
Oakham were now crating space in the Belgrave defence as Will Armstrong broke away only to be hauled down on the Belgrave 22, from the ruck the Rutland side moved the ball wide to wing Adam Stimson to ride the tackle and score wide out. The conversion was missed leaving Oakham ahead 8-3 after 35 minutes.
Having had most of the attacking play during the latter part of the half Oakham were made to pay for not putting away their half chances as they conceded a late penalty 35 metres out. Belgrave kicked for the corner and from the ensuing catch and drive, with the visiting forwards hammering away at the line, Oakham’s defence got sucked in. Belgrave cleverly spotted the overlap and moved the ball wide to score. The conversion was made to give Belgrave the lead just on half time at 8-10.
Oakham made changes at half time with Kawai Cheung replacing young prop Ewan Cooper who, after early problems sorted his scrummaging out and had a very good game in only his second first team start.
Stee Vukinavanua was brought on to add his direct attacking style in the centre. Oakham continued to look the more likely side to score as they began the second half well but, despite frequent good line breaks from Will Armstrong and James Beanland, a combination of poor support play and mistimed passes meant Oakham were still unable to put someone into space to score.
With 62 minute gone, James Padley made another break, this time support was on hand from the evergreen Martyn Stimson, getting to within five metres of the Belgrave line before being hauled down . The visitors conceded a free quick and Vukinavanua took a quick tap but was held up just short. Fly half Sam Janes then decided he had seen enough of forwards battering away at the line and decided to take the points, sitting back in the pocket he demanded the ball and coolly dropped a goal to put Oakham narrowly back in front 11-10.
Oakham were now looking the more dominant team as Belgrave, following a high tackle, conceded another penalty. Nick Wackwitz converted to increase the lead to 14-10.
With two minutes to go Oakham settled the game with a fine try.
From a scrum in their own half, Vukinavanua powered his way through the midfield defence scattering several attempted tacklers in his wake before releasing the ball to his support. At last wing Padley found himself in some space as he outpaced the Belgrave cover to score wide out.
The conversion attempt from the touchline by Nick Wackwitz hit the cross bar before bouncing back infield.
The match was played in a brilliant atmosphere thanks to the off-field support.
The annual sponsorship of the match by the ‘Welsh Trio,’ also known as Pete Stevens, Neville Roberts and Barry Waters, contributed greatly to the pre -match atmosphere as they led their lunch guests and spectators in a rousing pre -match singing oi ‘Land of my Fathers,’ in Welsh, and ‘Jerusalem’, together with other favourite rugby anthems.