With six games remaining of the 2018/19 campaign, OC’s headed to Haywards Heath for their second encounter of the season. Having been burgled at home earlier on in the season, the OC’s side were looking to continue their winning streak to eight games… Haywards Heath looking to extend theirs to six.
Off the back of a roll over and a positive week of training, the OC’s side with minimal changes from the previous weekends training match were full of confidence and ready to continue their hunt in the league. That confidence however took a knock in the early exchanges of the game.
From the first whistle it was evident it would be a tough, physical and challenging afternoon for both teams. Haywards Heath threw everything they had at the OC’s defence making it extremely difficult for them to exit their own 22. Effective counter rucking rewarded Haywards Heath a penalty and with it a 3-0 lead.
Going down so early in the game was something the OC’s side had not experienced in recent games, however remaining composed they came out strong from the restart forcing Haywards Heath to make a number of tackles and testing their defence. Despite a slower paced game than the OC’s side would have liked, handling errors were aplenty. Fortunately the opposition were also struggling to retain the ball. OC’s continued to apply pressure to the home sides defence and were rewarded for their patience and physicality with Haywards Heath seeing the first (of many) yellow card(s) and conceding a penalty.
Seizing the opportunity and negating Haywards Heath’s skulduggery in the line out, the OC’s driving maul was unstoppable and crossed the line from seven meters out for the first try of the game, COM taking his tally to 11 for the season. No conversion on this occasion 3-5.
Receiving the restart the OC’s attack looked to capitalise against 14 man Haywards Heath and were almost rewarded from a charge down by man of the match Jack McCusker. Fortunately for Haywards Heath, a scrambling defence and an “accidental” offside prevented the try…. If only Jack could have run straight. No penalty try to Jack Potters vocal disappointment, but the home side were reduced to 13 men and conceded another 3 points 3-8.
Despite Haywards Heath’s reduced numbers, they gave everything they had pinning the OC’s defence deep inside their own half. The OC’s defence put in a great defensive display with Dele driving back one of the home side’s players 10 meters, a penalty was sadly conceded right in front of the sticks 6-8 and half time.
Despite the positive defensive display and glimpses of the attacking flare that has rewarded OC’s so well recently, the conditions and the physicality of the home side were taking their toll. Energy and doing the basics right were the highlights from half time.
The second half started the same way the first had finished, big hits, turn overs, mistakes and line breaks. It wasn’t long before the home side continued their first half pressure on the OC’s defence resulting in the first yellow of the day for OC’s. Despite being down to 14, the defence stood strong absorbing whatever Haywards Heath threw at it. The reduced numbers in the OC’s defence were capitalised on from the back of an attacking Haywards Heath scrum with the home side finding a gap for the try and extras 13-8.
From the restart, Haywards Heath appeared to have found some confidence and were stretching the OC’s defence and cracks were starting to show. In a demonstration of the OC’s sides’ athleticism and speed, Ed Livett performed his best Gordon Banks impersonation in an “attempted interception” saving the OC’s side from what would have been a punishing attack. For his efforts he was outrageously rewarded with a yellow taking the head count temporarily down to 13.
Composing themselves, the OC’s side went back to the basics which have served them so well. Quick ball and brute force had Haywards Heath camped out on their own five meter line resulting in confusion amongst the home side. Vision and communication saw the forward pack pile round the ruck to huge gaps in the home sides defence. Quick ball from Gatsby and a long pass from Potter saw Dan Wood over the line and the extras being taken 13-15.
The final 10 minutes of the game were a free for all with both sides looking to secure victory through great attacking play. Clever play for OC’s saw them not only securing their own ball to wind down the clock but also stealing the oppositions ball. Game management saw the ball kicked to touch on full time to secure an OC’s victory.
Despite not capitalising on a number of attacking opportunities, the OC’s side showed great resilience in defensive, something they should be proud of, especially with reduced numbers during a key part of the game against one of the most physical teams in the league. Lots to take away and use for next week’s cup game at home to Gravesend.
Author – Dan Wood