Deep into stoppage time at the end of 80 minutes, leading by 47 points, down to 12 men following two yellow cards and injuries, Oaks were defending a rare Brighton sustained attack on their line, with all the intensity of the first minute. The final whistle blew with player and coaching staff celebrations as much for keeping their opponents try-less as well as the victory. Their granite-like attitude and mental strength are fast becoming features of this Oaks season.
Sevenoaks welcomed long time rugby adversaries Brighton Blues to the Paddock on Saturday for their sixth league fixture of this London & South-East 2021/22 season. This was another hugely impressive performance by the Oaks against a strong visiting team. The match was characterised by the Oaks generating go forward ball on almost every possession, strong defensive patterns and a ruthless streak when opportunities arose. Also notable are the speed and fitness of the squad. Seven tries and more excellent kicking by Ben Adams saw them run out 51 to 3 winners.
The first 20 minutes saw early Oak’s pressure and then some bright ripostes by the Blues leading to an exchange of penalties but at 3-3, neither team had really fired effectively; Oaks lacking precision and Brighton often kicking the ball away.
After 22 minutes the game came alive with Oaks scoring their first try following a brilliant kick-off catch by Jonny Short, the ball recycled and moved through the hands for Henry Galligan to score, converted by Adams. Three minutes later 10-3 became 17-3 when with the next possession another slick backs move was clinically converted by Patrick Pellegrini. Oaks were now well on top with momentum only interrupted by a nasty injury to captain Josh Pettet who, when leaving the field, received a warm round of applause from players and supporters of both teams.
With Brighton struggling to get any meaningful possession or territory and the home team looking comfortable, an Oaks 38th minute penalty kick to the 22 led to yet another fast transfer of ball through the hands and scrum half Henry Galligan finding a huge gap behind the breakdown to charge through to score under the posts. The try converted to make it 24-3. The last meaningful action of the first half saw a Blues charge at the Oaks line thwarted by good defence but also unfortunately a head injury to Oaks forward Jack Nay, who wouldn’t return for the second half.
The players left the pitch with Oaks surely thinking of the bonus point and Brighton frustrated they had been unable play their normal free-flowing game.
It only took 2 minutes of the second half for Oaks to score their 4th try, when replacement Freddie Richardson made a break supported by Ryan Hackett, allowing the backs once again to show their clinical finishing when James Fotheringham crossed the line. 31-3, the bonus point secured and the result now not in doubt. After 46 minutes Oaks were awarded a penalty, they kicked to touch allowing their efficient lineout to secure good ball off the top and, once again, for the backs to move the ball across the field to score the 5th try. 36-3. Brighton then spent some time pinned in their own half by an aggressive Oaks defence, leading to a yellow card for a Brighton forward for persistent infringements. The catch and drive from the resultant penalty kick to touch saw the forwards get in on the scoring, driving over from 5 metres to make the score 43-3 when the try was converted. Only 55 minutes had been played.
The remainder of the game saw the Blues play their best rugby, keeping the ball in hand with their impressive full back a stand-out player, but unable to penetrate the Oaks defence and threaten their opponent’s line. Oaks had two players yellow carded in the last 10 minutes as the pressure built, but even when at 14 men, they were able to disrupt a Brighton attack in the 76th minute with Awa Morris galloping two thirds the length of the pitch to score a classy try, taking a painful hit when crossing the line. Ben Adams made it 50-3, the final score.
Head Coach and Director of Rugby Adam Bowman was delighted with the performance and said after the game, “it was a great day for the club. A fantastic Second XV win over Sidcup in the early game, followed by the 1st XV producing another high-quality display. Our last five games have seen us pleasingly concede only an average of 8 points per game and score 36. The boys controlled the game and showed their ruthless streak when opportunities arose. The injuries didn’t disrupt our rhythm and we will now need to recover for the difficult trip to Sutton & Epsom”.
Remaining third in the league after this result, they will make the trip to Surrey next week knowing a similar huge effort will be needed. The Seconds will be away to Medway.
Photo credit: Dave Purday.