James Beanland bagged four tries to inspire Oakham to a crucial derby victory over near neighbours Stamford on Saturday.
Beanland’s try bonanza ensured a Midlands 2 East (South) double for the Oaks over their rivals after a 31-12 Showground success.
With both teams languishing near to the relegation zone the points on offer for the winner to move themselves up the table added extra spice to this much-anticipated derby duel.
More than 90 spectators and officials from both clubs enjoyed the pre-match lunch sponsored by Oakham president Steve Beanland.
The match kicked off on a blustery, damp and cold day which promised to make playing and handling conditions difficult.
Oakham played with the wind in their favour in the first half and the early exchanges had a definite derby feel as tackles went flying in with both teams making a series of errors under pressure.
Oakham were the first to settle and a well-judged kick by Callum Crellin led to Stamford being forced to carry over their own line.
From the resulting five-metre scrum the tone for the match was set with Oakham shunting Stamford backwards at the put in.
Number eight James Beanland picked up and drove for the line but was forced into touch just short.
The line-out was then stolen by Oakham with Beanland not to be denied, forcing his way over for the opening score that was well converted by Crellin to give the Oaks a 7-0 lead after five minutes.
Oakham were dealt a blow on the 15-minute mark when flanker Nick Houghton had to leave the field with a serious ankle injury.
The match was resumed with Oakham having the better of the exchanges before being awarded another scrum near to the Stamford line.
The Oaks attempted a series of drives, which were well defended by Stamford, before the play was switched to the left and finding James Beanland with space to work in.
He needed no second invitation to weave his way past several tackles and power over for his second try that was converted by Crellin for a 14-0 lead with 23 minutes played.
Oakham were now on top and playing some good rugby, switching the ball between forwards and backs before another good move was held up over the Stamford line.
With Oakham’s scrum superiority it looked a formality for a pushover try and so it proved as Stamford were shunted back unceremoniously before James Beanland touched down for his hat-trick which was again converted by the dependable boot of Crellin for a 21-0 advantage with half-time approaching.
Perhaps thinking the game was won Oakham began the second half with a series of errors and poor play.
Stamford seized their opportunity to get a foothold into the game as, from a scrum in Oakham’s 22, they scrambled the ball away as their scrum back-peddled.
Somehow turning poor ball into good possession, they then set up a fine backs move that resulted in a try in the corner. It was unconverted to make the score 21-5 with 15 minutes of the second half played.
Stamford were buoyed by the score and shortly afterwards from another scrum going backwards somehow managed to get the ball away again to their backs who took advantage of Oakham’s poor defensive line speed to again work an overlap, scoring another well-worked converted try to close the score to 21-12.
Stamford now sensed there may be still something for them in the game, however, Oakham then pulled themselves together and, with a series of drives, again began to dominate possession.
The Oaks quickly moved the ball wide to find James Beanland, not for the first time in the match, lurking in space as he set off on a powerful run, brushing off tackles before crossing for his fourth try that was once again converted by Crellin to extinguish any Stamford hopes with the score at 28-12 with 10 minutes to go.
Despite Stamford’s best efforts, Oakham shut the game down with the forwards retaining close possession before being awarded a penalty as the visitors desperately tried to get their hands on the ball at the breakdown.
Callum Crellin again added to his points tally with a well struck kick to make the score 31-12 with three minutes to go.
There was no way back for Stamford as the final whistle went to jubilant scenes from the Oakham spectators and players.