This past Saturday, the First XV again failed to win away from home in the league, this time falling short to a strong Old Ruts side currently placed second in the table.
One-Way Traffic in the First Half
Old Ruts were out for revenge after losing the previous two encounters – once in the league back in November, then again in the annual friendly Boxing Day fixture – and showed their determination from the very first whistle.
The home side scored two unanswered tries in the first half, both coming from solid scrummages inside the OWs' 22, working off a strong attacking platform that the visitors couldn’t match.
The OWs did play well in patches, with forwards Aidan O’Brien and Angus Fairbairn carrying over the gain line repeatedly. Lock Taz Habib also put his hand up, winning a number of important penalties for his team at the breakdown to keep Old Ruts at bay, but that could only relieve the pressure for so long before they made their way back up the pitch.
Unfortunately, poor OW handling and an inability to manage the windy conditions allowed Ruts too much easy possession and gave them countless opportunities to control the game inside our territory. In a difficult first half, the OWs couldn't find a way on to the score board.
OWs Leave the Comeback Too Late
The second half saw the home outfit score early on again, taking the score up to 19-0. They deserved the lead, but unforced errors and aimless kicks from the OWs throughout the afternoon were making it too comfortable for their opponents.
However, there was a marked improvement in the final 30 minutes. Flanker Sam Thomas in particular made several clean breaks to carry his team up the field, and versatile outside back James Murphy once again showed his class attacking from deep.
After a period of sustained pressure late in the game, scrum-half James Howell sniped defiantly from the base of a ruck to break into the Ruts 22, beating three defenders in the process and forcing back-peddling forwards to concede a penalty for offside. Howell remained one step ahead of everyone else by taking a quick tap, sending the ball down the line into the right corner, and the OWs went in for their first try.
It must be said that Old Ruts did play very well on the day, though, and came straight back out the blocks again. After making a break down the wing far too easily, they recycled the ball and shifted it out wide quickly to get over the line and secure their bonus point.
From the restart that followed, Ruts again showed nice skills to keep the ball alive, threatening to break once more, but a dropped ball by their winger put an end to that danger.
From the resulting scrum, a very slick backs move, crafted by number 10 Joe Walsh, saw the OWs break up the right via Murphy. Moving into the 22, the visitors did well to retain possession while continually making dents in Ruts' defence. After a few phases, centre Rory Southgate, who carried well all day, broke through several tackles to score a try of his own, bringing the final score to 26-12.
Plenty of Room for Improvement
Great spirit was shown by the OWs towards the end, but ultimately it was too little too late. If they’re to put in an improved performance from the start and get a victory this coming weekend, the full squad will need to work especially hard on the training pitch this Tuesday evening.
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