A late try blitz sent Oakham tumbling to a 45-7 away reversal at Belgrave in Saturday’s Midlands 2 East (South) clash.
The Oaks were poised to make a push victory when they trailed their fifth-placed visitors 10-7 with just 20 minutes.
However, three injuries in quick succession disrupted Oakham’s previous well-organised and resolute defence as Belgrave ran in five tries in the final 20 minutes.
With the original fixture postponed due to frost and snow last month, it was thought that this rearranged fixture in mid- March would see the players basking in the first signs of spring.
However, the mini ‘beast from the east’ had other ideas and frequent heavy snow showers were interspersed with sunshine and combined with a biting easterly wind had both sets of backs wishing they were forwards for the day to stay warm.
Oakham kicked off with the strong wind blowing across the pitch and slightly in their favour.
The early exchanges saw both defences on top and neither side able to gain much advantage.
Gradually Belgrave were retaining more possession, enabling their forwards and backs to continuously drive at the Oakham defence.
Oakham were holding firm until they infringed at the breakdown and with 25 minutes gone Belgrave struck the penalty between the posts to go 3-0 up.
The home side continued to gain the upper hand but were still not able to penetrate the visitors’ strong defence.
Oakham were finally undone by a clever chip over the top from the Belgrave fly half which saw his wing collect the kick to cross the Oakham line unopposed.
He appeared to have been more than marginally in front of the kicker but to Oakham’s dismay the try was awarded and duly converted to leave the visitors trailing 10-0 at half-time.
Oakham regrouped at the break, taking the game to Belgrave from the kick off with James Beanland, Dean Gouldsborough and Ben Turnbull leading the charge into the home 22.
The visitors were awarded a penalty which they chose to kick to touch. The line-out was won and, with a series of rucks and mauls, drove the ball infield towards the Belgrave line.
The Oaks then switched the attack right and Ben Turnbull drove through the defence for a try which was converted by Callum Crellin to reduce the arrears to 10-7 barely five minutes into the second half.
Belgrave were now under pressure with Oakham attacking and determined to increase their score. They were twice held up short as they laid siege to the Belgrave line.
Somehow Belgrave survived the onslaught and, with 20 minutes gone, completely against the run of play suddenly broke out from their own 22 to score a well-taken try in the corner. An excellent conversion saw Belgrave somehow 17-7 up.
More blows were to follow as Oakham lost players Dan Cousens, Dean Gouldsborough and James Beanland to injury in quick succession.
The enforced changes unsettled Oakham and their previous well-organised and resolute defence began to disintegrate as they started to miss first-up tackles, allowing the increasingly confident Belgrave side to break through almost at will for the remainder of the game.
Tries then followed in quick succession, a sharp 30 metre break was stopped just short of the Oakham line, but the ball was then offloaded in the tackle to a Belgrave support player to score, again converted for a 24-7 lead.
Things were starting to look bleak for Oakham but worse was to come. Belgrave were now running rampant breaking tackles, getting behind the visitors’ defence and offloading in great style.
Oakham were to concede more points as the home side ran in a further three tries, all converted by Belgrave’s goal kicker who didn’t miss anything all afternoon, banging conversions over from all around the pitch which was very impressive in the conditions.
The referee blew with the score at 45-7 to end a disappointing game for Oakham which had looked so promising until the final 20 minutes.
The Second XV hosted Aylestone St James at the Showground on Saturday, running out 24-15 winners.
Oakham are away to high-flying Luton on Saturday while the Second XV are hosting Burbage at the Showground in the Leicester Merit League, kick-off 3pm.