A daunting trip to SW17 beckoned, to face the frequent highflyers and ever feisty Battersea Ironsides [who, ironically, we play in the league this coming weekend at Park Lane]. At Ironsides request, scrums were to be uncontested, giving our youthful front row [Jacob Job, Nat Keynon, Lewis Freeman] opportunity to focus on line outs [generally strong] and their, very much needed…and supplied, workload in the loose, as well as giving Harry Smith and Elliot Anderson / Toby Brann, in the centre, opportunity to continue building partnerships from the front foot.
The first real action saw OR returnee Ben Snelling smash into a tackle, laying down a marker, which became the Green and Blue mantra for most of the next 80 minutes, and he followed this up with a penetrative line break [visions of Taz, the Tasmanian Devil, coming to mind], after clever use of the boot by Ed Forsyth and a touch penalty from Lucas Stephens, which moved us into the opponents’ 22.
Despite exciting interplay and breaks by Andy Green, George Croucher, Jude McRobbie and Jacob, we were unable to turn the hard work into points, although a cheeky grubber through from Harry was inches away from a try, after a follow up by Rob Cheal, who just ran out of dead ball area.
This, then, was where our day’s ‘bête noire’ arose. A quickly taken sevens style drop out caught us napping and suddenly the hosts were on the attack, moving into our territory with relative ease.
As ever, we defended our 22 with character [Joe Blake, Elliot and Adam Mendoza amongst others], but a scrum to Ironsides allowed them to move the ball swiftly through the hands, leaving Joe Wills unable to stem the flow, notwithstanding a valiant effort to bring the try scorer down. [7 – 0]
From the restart, we put pressure on – a strong tackle leading to an Ironside spill; possession returning to ORs. For the next 10 minutes we kept hold of the ball, hard running from forwards [Nat showing he is not just a defender] and backs alike, advertising what possibilities lay ahead. We were held up on the line, but then Ben muscled over from close range, impressing recently arrived brother, and OR legend, James, to pull us level [Lucas positioning the kick perfectly].
Battersea responded and another momentary Reigatian lapse in concentration from a quick penalty, gave them a further score, although Andy and Harry both did their best to dismember runners with their full bloodied defence.
From kick off, the home side regained the ball, but a punt ahead was superbly fielded by Joe W [memories of KCS] on the run, making metres and relieving pressure. More midfield action, saw further tough tackling [Jude, Lewis, Jacob and Rob all following our ‘elder statesmen’s’ defence ethic] to keep Ironsides contained, and ball in hand continued to light up ORs play – interchanges and individual breaks displaying true passion and growing confidence in each other.
With an injury to Jude, Toby took the field, and as the second half started, Joe Sheldrick replaced Ben, Joe showing that although he has not played in a while, his ability, both in attack and defence, are still fresh – Kev later joined the fray, adding another Father / Son cap to their collection. From the restart, we again looked dangerous with ball in hand; Toby and Harry making space for Adam to scamper through and score.
After a powerful counterattack from defence, the ball found its way to George on the wing, who outpaced the cover and go over the line; this started the five minutes that probably led to our victory. Lucas converted from out wide to take the score to 12-19, and then a further powerful OR back row offensive led to Andy increasing our lead to a clear 12 points.
At scrum half, Ed was still very much in charge, using his experience to set Lucas and the backs in motion and tidy up any messy fringe ball – Nat getting ‘down and dirty’, as well, to clear danger from line outs. There was more defending to do [Joe B and Branny thumping Battersea players to the ground], as our opponents came back at us, but we were unable to keep them out, eventually succumbing to a well taken goal.
Working back into the game, Lucas pushed us into Battersea’s 22, where, after sustained exertion, Adam stepped the last defender to score his second of the afternoon [19-29], but another quick penalty [and us not being ready] saw a further Ironside try.
As at KCS earlier in the season, this was now becoming quite difficult to follow, but the end-to-end action kept the entertainment levels high and a beautifully created score for ORs [No.8 pick up to Ed to Joe W and then to George outside] showed rugby at its simplest and most effective, albeit that Battersea were now temporarily one player light.
We had one more moment of attacking excitement, when Lucas kicked through, and George was just unable to collect – jug avoidance said some cynical teammates!
The game was now heading to its conclusion, and, with the slightly dubious yellow card for Lewis, we, down to 14, began to tire, with some tackles slipping through and allowing the home side one final score at the last.
There will be moments in the write up that have been missed, so apologies for any glaring omissions / errors. Suffice to say, it was another of those fantastic squad performances that kept OR followers on the edge of their metaphorical seats [and smoke rising from my pen and notebook, with the amount of action]; it did add the extras asked for after the Chobham performance – decision making and the extra energy were definite improvements – keeping check on quick counter attacks must be worked on and those final minutes of play require maintained focus, but these areas were discussed after the game, and will, hopefully, be extinguished going forward.
Battersea visit Reigate this Saturday; one would anticipate that they will bring more fire power, but, I think, we will be ready, and even without our coach on the side at the moment [thanks to the Mighty O in his absence], there is continued Pilgrim’s progress!