If anyone was in doubt as to the health of grassroots rugby, then they would have been best advised to head along to Knole Paddock last Saturday, to witness a pulsating top of the table clash between Sevenoaks RFC 1st XV and the visitors, Medway RFC. Both sets of players deserve huge credit for the level of entertainment they provided the 500-strong crowd, with the lead changing hands a number of times until Oaks got their heads in front, a lead which they refused to surrender despite the best efforts of the opposition, particularly in the last ten minutes.
If the match wasn’t enough, supporters were also graced with the presence of current RFU President Chris Kelly and pre-match diners were treated to an excellent rendition of ‘Dublin’s Fair City’, led by the Medway RFC travelling support. Post-match, as news filtered through of other results across the 2nd, 3rd XV’s and Gents, of which Oaks won all but one match, the beer flowed to celebrate not only the Oaks three victories, but to rejoice in the amateur game and to be thankful to both Clubs players, management and supporters for being involved in such a marvellous occasions. Put quite simply, amateur rugby at its very best.
‘Aside from the results, it was a great day and special to be involved in’ said Head Coach Adam Bowman. ‘Firstly, a huge thank you to everyone that came to the match and all those that put in so much work to put a day on like that, in particular Diane and Colin for keeping everyone suitably fed and well lubricated! The noise from the side line was brilliant and I know the boys fed off that, particularly in the last ten minutes when we were pushed all the way by Medway. We have five Cup Finals now and that support will be hugely appreciated, both home and away.’
Oaks reward for beating second placed Medway is a trip to third placed Camberley, who sit just three points behind Oaks. In the reverse fixture in November at the Paddock, Oaks came from behind to beat the visitors 13-8 and Bowman expects things to be just as tight this time around. ‘There’s pretty much a cigarette paper between the top four sides’ he said. ‘Each of the top four will be hoping the others slip up. We saw with the Thurrock and Brighton Blues match at the weekend (when Thurrock beat Brighton 24-22), that other sides in the league will have a huge say in where the top four end up. We just have to concentrate on ourselves and make sure that we train with the same intensity that we did last week (before the Medway match).’
Particularly pleasing for the Oaks Head Coach were the results of the 2nd and 3rd XV’s, who both overcame their Medway counterparts, whilst the Gents lost out despite putting in a strong second half showing away from home. ‘As a coaching group, we are always keeping in touch throughout the game on the other results and it’s the first thing we want to know when the relevant match has finished – what is the score across the Oaks matches. The coaches report from this week across the 2nd and 3rd XV has certainly contributed to some keen debates amongst the coaching staff and those that were in the 1st XV last week can’t rest on their laurels. We will re-group again on Tuesday and gather the best squad available to take on Camberley, Old Alleynians and Gravesend.’
And so to Camberley on Saturday. A team that is clearly one of the form sides in the league, despite it only being their first season at this level. ‘They bring with them a big, physical team, but with some real clarity in the way they want to play. They really are an excellent side. We know they will have done their homework on us, so we will have to ensure that we are able to back up a huge performance with another – the boys will have to summon all their physical and mental strength to get anything out of Saturday. But I have complete faith in this squad – they have applied themselves to every challenge this season, but perhaps the toughest so far awaits this Saturday – we will need all the support possible and I hope to see as many of the Oaks faithful at Camberley this Saturday.’