Sevenoaks Rugby Club 1st XV secured a bonus point 25-11 win against Bedford Athletic 1st XV, the Oaks first in the London Premier South.
After a wonderful promotion winning season last term, Head Coach Adam Bowman and his men were determined to focus on the here and now. This well measured performance proved to Oaks players and supporters that they certainly deserve the chance to compete at this level.
The match kicked off in fine conditions, on Athletic’s excellent synthetic surface, with the home side playing with a slight wind behind them. Two minutes gone and Athletic struck first through the boot of their number ten, who converted a penalty from thirty metres out to give his side the lead after Oaks had been penalised for an infringement.
As the game progressed, Oaks settled into a good rhythm in both defence and attack, with a couple of occasions when winger Rich Adenyi-Jones could have broken away but for the bounce of the ball or good cover tackling.
The first try of the game went to Oaks following pressure defensively resulting in good field position. After a catch and drive at a lineout, the excellent back row Fred Richardson burst from the back of a maul to barrel over for Oaks first points at Level 5. The conversion went wide but the score had given Oaks great confidence.
The away side knew that this level of rugby would pose a consistent physical threat, but their organisation and desire in defence made it very hard for the quick and strong Bedford back line to break free. Even when Athletic did make a half break, the player would be thwarted by a number of Oaks defenders scrambling across.
Athletic were to score another penalty after a deliberate knock-on in midfield by Oaks to make it 6-5, but Oaks responded with another try, this time through hooker Scotty Sedgwick. After more good work by his fellow forwards, Sedgwick dived over in the right hand corner, giving Oaks a 10-6 lead on the stroke of half an hour gone in the match. Making his 100th league appearance for the Oaks 1st XV, it was a score that the hooker Sedgwick will be sure to treasure.
Things weren’t done though and with half time looming, Athletic scored their first try after a solid scrum gave their back line the opportunity to attack Oaks with pace. Moving the ball to the outside channel, the Athletic wide men interchanged well, finishing in the corner to give the home side a slender 11-10 lead at half time.
As the second half got underway, there was a sense from Oaks that they had perhaps let two or three chances slip in the first stanza. With the small wind now in Oaks favour, the away side simply dominated second half proceedings from the off with a commanding display in the set-piece, defence and attack. Within two minutes, Oaks were over the whitewash, as scrum half and Man of the Match Matt Holmes fielded a kick, put in good footwork and pace to break free before feeding No.8 Sean Derrick, who cantered in unopposed over the line. Tom Simmonds converted and Oaks had just the tonic they wanted at the start of the second half.
After more sustained pressure, Simmonds converted a penalty to give Oaks a two score lead at 20-11 and as the half wore on, Oaks continued to pin the home side back into the 22. Despite resolute defending from Athletic, one felt the dam would finally burst and with just over 8 minutes to go, Derrick was the scorer again, this time picking and going from the back of a solid scrum to make it 25-11 to Oaks and secure the bonus point.
Credit to the home side, for the remainder of the match Oaks had to defend resolutely, with debutant Benjamin Martin and Matt Holmes scrambling in the last moments to stop the strong Athletic winger from barging over. Final score 25-11 to Sevenoaks RFC.
After the match, Oaks Head Coach Adam Bowman said ‘Clearly we are absolutely delighted with the result, but more importantly the performance. The second half was very mature rugby from across the board and showed that we will be able to compete at this level.’
‘We will enjoy tonight, rest tomorrow and then get back to work on Tuesday. We’ve talked all pre-season about the consistency of performance we will need to show in this league as there will be hard game after hard game.’
‘We look forward to welcoming Sidcup Rugby Club 1st and 2nd XV’s to the Paddock next Saturday and hope that we can get as many supporters down as possible to get behind the boys like they did last season – we can’t wait.’