After a gruelling win in less than ideal conditions at Beccs last week, OCs were greeted with more favourable ones to play the “fast, skilful and powerful” rugby that visitors Hove had come to expect from us (their words, not ours).
A sustained period of pressure in Hove’s 22 thanks to a Josh Doughty break straight from kick off meant OCs started well, as COM eventually broke through a disciplined and physical hove defensive line to dot down. 7-0. A poor exit from the restart let the opposition back in the game almost immediately however, and after a few phases they went down the blindside with good hands to go over for one of their own. Hove’s next visit to our 22 some time later was also rewarded with a try, as a chip and chase solo effort from their winger made the score 12-7. Appearing to lack an answer to Hove’s structured defence, further pressure was invited in our red zone. Thankfully the penalty that followed was missed, and the resulting 22 dropout was caught by an unfortunate member of the Hove back 3 who came face to face with OCs centre partnership, who effected the turnover penalty at the breakdown. Following more forward phases in midfield, and a nicely floated pass from Potts, Alex Verissimo, who had bravely elected to play this game through illness, found himself in space and after cutting back inside, crashed over the line, leaving piles of defenders in his wake. Charlie Baker later went over in the corner with a diving catch more suited to a cricket game than rugby, to retrieve a wayward pass and dot down. To ensure the completion of the momentum swing before the end of the half, OCs final act was to repel a driving maul on our own 5m line. Dele, who was thankfully unscathed from what could’ve been a serious head injury moments before, was instrumental in this.
To answer an early Hove penalty in the second half, the OCs scrum, which had faced one of its toughest challenges to date this season was rewarded with a walkover from 5m out, AOM the beneficiary. Jack Potter, who had kicked metronomically all day added a penalty shortly after as OCs looked to build a score having already secured a try BP. Next, came Head Coach Luke Fielden’s early try of the season contender. Centre Dan Hepden broke the line after stepping and fending and ultimately released support runners Doughty and Zaid up the left wing. Slick midfield phases ensued, the forwards chipping in with deft handling, releasing Angus in the 22. Lots of effort was made to then fall in to a shape on the blindside, leaving a huge hole for Potter to glide through and unselfishly offload to Fullback Ross, who was gifted with a 1 on 1 from 5m out, which he gratefully took advantage of, crashing over from short range. All elements of our new “Spicy hot backline” combining nicely for this one. In similar fashion to their earlier try, Hove’s backline clicked and went over in the corner after a string of OCs penalties. And indeed they added another, combining nicely from the scrum to go over in the wide channels. After this however, good game management and some well placed kicks kept Hove largely on the back foot and in their own 22 for the remainder of the game.