As part of their pre-season preparations, Oaks traveled to Grasshoppers RFC in London to take part in a tournament containing nine other teams. The format would see the men from Knole Paddock play 24 minute games against sides that were of similar league status.
The conditions were bright for the first match against Reading Abbey and Oaks got quickly into their stride with some devastating counter attack play, with Sean Derrick to the fore. Indeed it was no.8 Derrick who scored the try of the game, picking up the ball in his own half from a kick-off before slicing through defenders before stepping the full back and sprinting in from 40 yards. It was a good start with no tries conceded and five scored, with Adams adding the extras on three occasions.
The second game saw Oaks take on late replacements to the tournament in the form of Ashford. Oaks had won twice handsomely when the sides met in the league last season, but took time to get into their stride, until the deadlock was broken by Winter. Ashford defended well and Oaks were making small frustrating errors. It was Derrick again who forced his way over and Oaks rounded off proceedings with two more scores before the final whistle, with new man Edwards getting his name on the scoreboard after some solid work from the forwards.
Oaks then faced their stiffest test so far in High Wycombe. After Adams dotted down in the corner, he was to get six throughout the tournament, Oaks were to concede their first points of the day and went behind after High Wycombe converted a penalty.
The structure that new coach Adam Bowman is putting into place then started to come into play and rather than panicking, the men in blue and gold started to play with the accuracy and ruthlessness that had eluded them in the first half. New man Dan Phoenix, who had an outstanding day, cut a beautiful line off skipper Stu Coleman to send Oaks into the lead and with Adams converting, victory was assured.
The final league match would determine who would go into the Final to play the winners of the other side of the draw. The hosts were the opposition and it was another new man, Shadyn Osgood who stamped his authority on the game from centre. After putting two big hits in midfield, Osgood also showed his attacking prowess and sprinted in from fifty metres out for the try of the match. Oaks were starting to hit their straps, and despite conceding one score, they were now playing with a confidence and cruised into the Final with three more tries.
The Final saw Oaks drawn against Sutton and Epsom, who were promoted from London 1 South to National 3 South at the end of last season. Oaks were out of the blocks quickly and played hard, physical and direct rugby, with half-backs Goodhew and Winter conducting play well. It was Osgood who broke the deadlock, after Oaks had swung the ball from side to side, some good hands in the centre of the field saw the big centre head over in the corner. Adams converted with an excellent touchline conversion.
Two minutes later and Oaks were at it again, this time with Jonny Briggs finishing off some fine hands in the backs after good work up from John Henley. Oaks were buzzing.
What will please the coaching staff is the relentless attitude shown by the team in the Final and this was epitomised with the next score. Almost immediately off the kick-off, Oaks secured ball in midfield, Winter and Phoenix combined to swing the ball to the right wing where Adams was standing. Taking the ball at pace, the young winger, who has clearly worked hard in the off-season, chipped ahead and won the footrace the the bouncing ball and sprint in under the sticks. His conversion would be the final score of the day, as Oaks showed aggressive defence and composure in a strong wind to see out the game 21-0.
In summary, it was a very good performance against strong opposition and showed that the hard work that Oaks have been putting in over pre-season is bearing dividends.
After the Final, Head Coach Adam Bowman commented 'It's been an excellent day and I'm really pleased with how we have performed. We have steadily improved and the level of rugby in the Final was where we want to be. It's always tough at tournaments because of the break in between games, but it was so well run here we weren't waiting around at all. This was a real squad effort with each and every man making telling contributions.'
'As I said after last week's match against Medway, there's lots to work on still. Our accuracy in the first couple of matches wasn't really there, but overall I'm really pleased. We have a week's break now and that will give us good time to work on a number of areas within our game. A big thank you to the tournament organisers at Grasshoppers for their work and also to the supporters who battled through the M25 to give us support.'
Squad: J.Walker, D.Power, B.Martyr, S.Sedgewick, J.Simmons, M.Simmons, J.Henley, S.Coleman (C), M.Dodd, W.De-Smith, S.Derrick, S.McCorry, A.Suttill, S.Goodhew, I.Winter, O.Shirtcliff, D.Phoenix, S.Osgood, S.Tree, A.Edwards, B.Adams, J.Short, J.Briggs
Oaks take a break now before their first games of the season on September 3rd, with the 1st XV taking on Gosport and Fareham at home and the 2s away at Tunbridge Wells.