Clinical Oaks go top with win at Dorking

ENGLAND RUGBY LONDON & SE PREMIER DIVISION: DORKING 29 SEVENOAKS 35

Deep into added time, after 80 minutes of high-quality rugby served up by the best two teams in the London and SE Premier league, the game remained in the balance. Trailing by six points, camped on the Sevenoaks five metre line, Dorking’s forwards lunged for the try line, successfully grounding the ball against the base of the post, only for the referee correctly to award a scrum to Oaks for accidental offside. Amongst the one thousand supporters in attendance on a glorious sunny day, Oaks followers expressed both relief and joy, whilst the Ds faithful disappointment, as the final play of the game followed, with Oaks kicking the ball out to conclude what had been a pulsating match.

Sevenoaks and Dorking rugby clubs had showcased community rugby at its best, both on and off the pitch. Earlier in the afternoon the second XVs had played out a thrilling 38-38 draw; and whilst the Oaks first XV won the day 35-29, the fine margins seen in the closing phases of the game had been evident throughout the contest. Both teams deserve huge credit, offering first-class entertainment based on their unrelenting physical commitment and rugby skills executed at a breath-taking pace. Sevenoaks deserved their victory, as the more clinical team in attack, backed up by resilient red zone defending but unusually for them, allowing midfield defensive gaps that won’t please their coaches, giving Dorking some easy yards and points.

Nevertheless, this victory moved the men from the Paddock to top slot in the league table and with only three games remaining and two teams promoted at the end of the season, elevation to Level 4, if not yet secured, is in sight.

Dorking kicked off down the slope, with the wind at their backs and won an early penalty for offside. Showing their intent, they kicked to touch rather than taking the points but were repelled by the Oaks’ defence. The home team pressure continued, rewarded after 8 minutes when forcing a turnover and picking up the ball following an exchange of kicks, to score in the corner; converted 7-0. Another penalty followed for Dorking who this time went for the three points but were off target.

Sevenoaks grew into the game forcing Dorking to infringe at the breakdown and after 22 minutes kicked to touch, rumbled forward with a penalty advantage again, fed Patrick Pellegrini who jinked passed a surprisingly open home defence to score under the posts; converted 7-7. A repeat lineout and backs move almost resulted in a try in the corner, stopped by some excellent last-ditch Dorking defending.  However, Oaks took the lead after 29 minutes, turning the ball over as the Surrey men attacked, their clearing kick partially charged down and Oaks’ Shadyn Osgood reacted quickly, passed to Jonny Short who broke free to put in the supporting Sean Derrick to score under the posts; converted to lead 7-14. Oaks would have hoped to gain some semblance of control from this position, but the impressive Dorking lineout disrupted their own normally imperious processes, making sustained attacking control difficult.

More Dorking advances immediately followed but excellent defence held up the D’s rumbling forwards beyond the Oak’s try line. After 38 minutes, the home team’s lineout clicked into gear again, with the ball moved out through their backs, punching an uncharacteristically large hole in the Oaks’ midfield. Good scrambling defence followed but Nigel Gumbleton was penalised in front of the post and yellow-carded. The penalty was slotted, 10-14.

The final minutes of a pulsating first half saw Oaks score two tries and Dorking one. For the away team, Josh Livett returned a clearing kick, exchanged passes with Patrick Pellegrini, putting Ben Adams in to score; Ben converted to make it 10-21. Dorking soon made it 17-21 in the corner, only for Sevenoaks to win a scrum from the kick-off, from where Patrick Pellegrini danced through the opposing defence for the bonus point try to make the half time score, when converted, 17-28.

It had been a fantastic first half with the dangerous Oaks more clinical in attack but Dorking exerting more game control and presenting a constant scoring threat.

The second half started with Oaks winning quick penalties and territory, but Dorking defended well and eventually forced an interception from an Oaks’ midfield error, to score 7 easy points under the posts. 24-28. The next phase of the match saw fierce midfield exchanges, involving a yellow card on 50 minutes for a Dorking forward. With a man advantage, after 57 minutes Oaks scored their fifth try, executing a move off a successful lineout, for Nigel Gumbleton to break through and pass to Awa Morris to score; converted, 24- 35.

The final quarter of the game saw the home team exerting significant pressure, having the greater territory, forcing a ‘deliberate knock-on in the tackle’ penalty and yellow card award for Oaks’ Ben Adams and after 75 minutes scoring the final try of the game, unconverted, 29-35. More attacking forays by Dorking, a fierce scrum contest but also the home team making errors under pressure from the intense Oaks defence characterised the final 5 minutes plus added time. Oaks held out, taking the five points, with 2 valuable points for Dorking.

The large crowd caught its breath and recognised this had been a day to celebrate great rugby. With first meeting second it was always likely to be a close contest influenced by fine margins and tight calls, under the stewardship of an excellent referee. We had all witnessed two excellent teams competing in a game, in truth, either team could have won.

After the match Director of Rugby and Head Coach Adam Bowman said “what a serious game of rugby that was and what an advert for level 5 rugby.  I am incredibly proud of everyone involved in the Senior Squad, the players put everything into that game and trusted our processes to get us over the line to win the game.  A massive thank you to all those that came to support at Dorking, the whole squad hugely appreciate it!  Next up we have another huge game at home vs Tring RFC, bring it on!”