The OPs upped sticks and made the journey to a busy Earlsfield area on Saturday afternoon mostly arriving en-mass but with a few battling traffic and travel issues to join the ranks. This was a much-anticipated showdown of the top of the table teams with the winner taking the top spot.
Bec Old Boys, a team that we knew had put the hard yards in over summer and that bloody formidable hill. The challenge today being to play uphill with the wind or downhill against!
With our glorious leader away, Chris Morcombe was handed the honour of captaining this team with Max Hart the Vice Captain. Discussion was had, and the decision made to start uphill should we win the toss. Alas the decision was out of our hands with the toss going the way of Bec. The game started with us kicking off downhill into a reasonably strong headwind – not any of the conditions we would have liked but we had to get on with it.
It was clear from the outset that OPs were up against a powerful, well drilled opposition who knew how to play the slope. A flurry of activity from both sides and Bec got the upper hand, crossing the line after just 3 minutes. A quick restart and they again crossed at 8 minutes gone.
OPs defended valiantly for every onslaught but even with good individual performances we struggled to stop the structured and co-ordinated attack. It was during one of these defences that Harry Cowley, our tighthead prop returning from his foray into multisport events and looking very fit, got entangled in a ruck and unfortunately tore his bicep. That was Harry done for the game. Enter Rahul – although a seasoned campaigner for the OPs, this was his first game of the season and a little earlier than he envisaged.
At around the 14 minutes mark OPs had held them steady since their previous try when our scrumhalf, Sam Bloom put in a tremendous try saving tackle. The ball was loose and Pat Elway gathered the ball, making off down the sideline and heading for what we all thought was to be our first try. However, not only were Bec very well drilled in their attack but also in defence with a smart turnover thwarting our attack.
It was around this time we suffered our second big blow. Max Hart injuring his leg and having to make way. He was replaced by Tim Morris, our very own Club Captain and long-time servant of the OPs, bringing his skills into the game also a little earlier than he had hoped for!
In defence OPs were throwing everything at Becs, but kicks from hand into the wind were proving difficult and any runs we did make were shut down and ball turned by a very well drilled unit.
Bec capitalised on the momentum they had generated to run in 5 more tries before half time. There was a glimmer of hope at around the 39-minute mark when Ed Birrell, our industrious 7 who was putting in an immense performance made a break down the middle of the pitch sidestepping and brushing off tackles. Was this to be the turning point? Alas no.
The score 47-0.
Half time emphasised the need to refocus, lift our heads and come back at them. We knew the big runners and had seen their tactics.
Kick off to us, we were now running uphill with tired legs but we did have the wind. The ball was put deep into the opposition half but Bec covered the pitch well and turned a lot of ball storming downhill making territory each time.
OP’s defence was fantastic, despite the tired bodies, but we held them for long periods at various positions on the pitch. They did however seize opportunities and racked up another 39 unanswered points. FT 86-0
A very exhausted OPs team were gracious in defeat accepting they had been beaten by a better team on the day. Some work to do but, to a man, some epic performances. Reset for next week and straighten the ship.
Director of Rugby, David ‘Moose’ Nicholas