Sevenoaks Rugby Club continues to pressure the league leaders in London 1 South following a 13-8 win over high flying Camberley on Saturday.
Faced by a huge pack and equally physical back line, Oaks stuck to their lines of team cohesion, grit and tactical nous to bag a hard-fought victory against third-placed Camberley.
The match started with Camberley waltzing through for an early try. The vaunted visitors from Surrey anticipated a rout. And perhaps there was an element of complacency as they trotted back to receive the re-start, unaware of the resilience to be found at Knole Paddock this season.
This particular Oaks vintage is maturing with every game, and with strength in depth behind them developing a capacity for upsetting teams who pitch up expecting capitulation only to encounter the very opposite: navy and gold determination.
A sublime passage of play – in retrospect the game’s denouement – serves to underline Oaks’ qualities. With 15 minutes to go and trailing 8-6, Oaks were defending hard and going to the well to keep their lines in tact as Camberley made inroads into the Oaks half. The defensive pressure told as a Camberley player got isolated, jackalled, and subsequently pinged for holding onto the ball that fraction too long.
Ben Adams stepped up and thumped the ball down for an Oaks lineout on the Camberley 22. Now the Paddock faithful had been hitherto distracted by events that put the hurly burly of modern rugby into perspective; a wonderful birthday lunch for a gentleman who played his first match for Oaks some 70 years ago – here’s to you Mike Mauduit. The salmon, the soup, the mains, the cheese boards, the bubbles and the drop or two of red wine all required attention and so it was that Captain Stuart Coleman, imperious in the lineout all day, rose to claim the ball at the very same time that the Bradshaw-Pearl Balcony was finding its voice.
Following the catch, the drive took Sevenoaks to within five metres of the Camberley line. From there, twenty or so patient phases of pick and go, each one cheered with increasing gusto, edged Oaks inexorably closer to the whitewash, inch by dogged inch, carry by dogged carry. Patience paid off as a melee of players smuggled the ball over the line right under the posts and Adams slotted the extras, all to the delight of the home crowd.
Camberley is a game outfit and having raced up through the leagues in recent seasons they know how to claw victory back from defeat. Their response to going 13-8 behind was to hammer at Oaks for every second of the last ten minutes, with formidable scrummaging and slick defensive patterns keeping the visitors at bay.
The final play of the game found Camberley in possession just five yards out from the Oaks try line, before Oaks forced a penalty and kicked the ball off the park to close out a gripping win, set up by keeping their noses in front 6-5 going into the half time break through two Adams penalties.
The top of the table is hotting up and in the coming weeks Oaks has the opportunity to create a very solid league position to take into the festive period. A triptych of Havant, Dartordians, and Chichester in wait opens this Saturday with a visit to Havant for a double header: the 2nd XV kick off at 1:00 and the 1st XV at 3:00. All support very welcome. Visit www.sevenoaksrugby.com for more information.