The Stags kicked off their season away to our friends at Old Alleynians buoyant by an influx of new players and a cracking pre-season in the locker.
On England’s largest rugby pitch and with temperatures topping records, the scene was set for a glorious afternoon of rugger.
Opening exchanges were even for a good 10mins with both sides finding their feet. From our point of view, the defensive structure was sound and we were recycling well albeit we couldn’t quite go through enough phases to break down the stoic OAs defence.
OAs were the first to draw blood through a well worked move, and when their powerful backrower crashed over for their second minutes later, there was concern in the OCs camp – could the boys regather themselves? Yes.
Such resilience this early in the season isn’t usual, but that just goes to show the importance of pre-season and believing in how we want to play and who we’re playing with.
Indeed, a huge tackle by Freddie completely changed the mood and tempo of the first half, and soon after Conor crashed over after taking a great pass around the oppo 22m. Game on.
Both sides continued to play expansive rugby with both forwards and backs getting plenty of possession and territory. But neither side were able to extend their score through to halftime, 14-7 to the home side.
As OCs finished the 1st half with their tails up, talk at HT was to make a mark in the first 10mins of the 2nd half. All we needed was a good start (where have I heard that before?). A sloppy restart by OCs led to 4/5 phases and a score under the sticks by the OAs rangey fullback. Grrr.
Again, we could’ve crumpled, but the boys talked great and got back on it. Continued pressure and great phase play led to the man monster, Jesuuuus, crashing over in the corner. Questions were asked if the touch judge raised his flag (me!), but I can confirm I was merely cheering the Try with my arms on the air! The try was good.
The weather was definitely taking its toll at this stage, and OAs managed it better. As we tired, OAs started to stretch our defence and scored to well finished tries to move the score to 33-14 pretty quickly.
Now using all of our subs and having to recycle some of the starting 15, we still ploughed away. Then came the moment of the match (for me). A 10 phase possession with fantastic hands and commitment led to Tegan flying in the corner to keep our hopes alive as we entered the final stages of the match. What a team try.
With minutes to spare, the boys gave it their all. Some were off their feet (1st game syndrome) and that ultimately told as OAs impressive fullback went over again to put the game to bed.
Final score 38-19 but the Stags should. E mighty proud, I was. The effort was superb. The boys stuck at it, and this proves we have loads to work on and look forward to for the rest of the season.