Oakham produced a terrific battling performance to earn a losing bonus point against a very good Old Laurentians side.
The 35-30 defeat against a side very much in contention for promotion saw Oakham field a much-changed line-up from the previous week’s derby victory over Stamford with injuries and unavailability taking their toll.
The Oaks knew they were in for a tough afternoon if they were to get anything out of the game.
This was highlighted as they lost back row Dan Watkins to injury in the first minute, leaving Tom Armstrong with the prospect of having to play 79 minutes instead of coming on for a cameo role in the last 10 as he had envisaged.
Reshuffling the pack, Stimson went to back row with Armstrong slotting in at front row, but the Oaks then found themselves behind after just three minutes.
From a midfield scrum Laurentians moved the ball right and then left to create an overlap for their winger to race away and score under the posts, It was converted to put Laurentians 7-0 up.
It was Oakham’s first siting of the Laurentian left wings startling pace, but it was not to be their last.
Oakham then had a period of good possession, making ground towards Laurentians line, before their opponents conceded a penalty. Callum Crellin added the points to make it 7-3 in the 11th minute.
Oakham proceeded to concede two penalties in quick succession at the breakdown, allowing Laurentians a lineout five metres out.
The visitors showed they were up for the battle when they stopped the drive, turned the ball over and then kicked away safely upfield.
The Oaks were settling into their game and, with Sam Janes pulling the strings at fly half, the back line was starting to pose problems.
From another good kick by Janes, Oakham regained possession at the lineout in Laurentians’ 22 and, with Crellin prompting the attacks, switched the ball right then left before putting wing Charlie McKee in at the corner. It was converted by Crellin to give Oakham a 10-7 lead.
Oakham’s lead did not last long as they tried to clear their lines by kicking downfield, the ball falling to Laurentians’ full back who made ground before offloading to his supporting left wing.
Oakham could only watch as he sped away from the covering defence to score another try near the posts, easily converted for Laurentians to regain the lead at 14-10.
Showing pride and determination, Oakham – with fly half Sam Janes prompting the backs and forwards – they forced their way upfield.
Their opponents were happy to concede a penalty at the breakdown to prevent further Oakham progress and Crellin converted.
From the kick-off the Oaks again forced Laurentians into penalties at the breakdown, unfortunately just out of Crellin’s range, as they opted to kick for the corner.
Laurentians stole the lineout – a problem area for Oakham all afternoon – and cleared away.
Oakham’s defence was stretched as Laurentians’ centre dummied to break through before handing on to their dangerous left wing who sped away before chipping through. He then showed great skill by gathering the ball at pace for another fine individual try, easily converted to leave Oakham trailing 21-13 at half-time.
Oakham started the second half well, working their way into Laurentians territory before being awarded another penalty.
Crellin struck the ball well and was rewarded as it crept over having hit the post to make it 21- 16 with 15 minutes played in the second half.
At this stage Oakham were on top and had the home side worried as they drove the maul towards Laurentians’ line only for it to be pulled down just short.
In the resultant melee the referee sin-binned Oakham’s Rhys Grieve for attempting to exact retribution on the Laurentians player.
Despite being a player short Oakham again drove their maul towards the Laurentians line and, following a series of scrums, Crellin picked up the ball from the base and skipped over on the blind side for a clever individual try, which he then converted for a 23-21 lead for Oakham with 15 minutes to play.
Oakham were forced into a mistake in midfield, a loose pass was seized on by Laurentians and their clever kick ahead was retrieved by, who else, but their lightening left wing who cruised away under the posts for a converted try to make it 28-23.
Oakham controversially went further behind, as the referee somehow missed a Laurentians knock on near to the visitors line.
Laurentians took full advantage by forcing their way over in the opposite corner. It was well converted from out wide to increase their lead to 35-23 with 10 minutes to play.
From the kick-off Oakham fought back again and, having won a lineout near to Laurentians line, set up a series of forward drives.
Laurentians were conceding a string of penalties as they defended their line desperately, but Oakham eventually crossed the line as Henry Wills forced himself over for Crellin to convert , narrowing the score to 35-30 with a few minutes left.
Oakham, however, were unable to get the additional score as the whistle went for full-time.