The Knole Paddock faithful was out in throngs for Sevenoaks Rugby Club 1st XV's first home match of the season versus Maidstone. The sun shone, the beer flowed and Oaks put away a resolute and game Stone in some style by 43-15.
After last week's away defeat at Chichester, Oaks seemed intent on making amends from the get go. They pressured and harried Stone in defense and in attack put together the kind of phase play made possible by hundreds of hard yards of off-season training. Oaks' fitness told from early on and the navy and gold were soon on the scoreboard through the trusty boot of Jack Barker..
Both Oaks and then Stone - in a rare foray into the home side's half - exchanged missed attempts at goal before a very telling first try.
The combination of Stone's continued ill discipline and Oaks' defensive qualities made it hard for the visitors to settle into any form of shape and rhythm, and Oaks were soon camped on the Maidstone try line, having put some excellent driving mauls together. The patience of the referee was snapped by another infringement by Stone, which led to a penalty try.
It wasn't long before Oaks were again making in roads and a break by ever present Pettet set up field position. From the top of an Oaks lineout on the Stone 22, Oaks moved the ball quickly and a darting break from the subsequent phases by Goodhew, enjoying a stormer at 9, resulted in an offload to Short running an incisive line and he duly crossed for the try. Barker slotted over the extras.and Short went over again before the close to give the Oaks a 24-0 half-time lead, the home side having withstood a barrage of pressure by Stone through some abrasive and last ditch tackling.
Oaks rather slumbered into the second half, and as a result Maidstone scored quickly from a scrappy lineout close to the Oaks line that was fumbled when it should have been cleared.
The reposte was rapid in the shape of Man of the Match Gumbleton at 12, who dotted down following another impressive catch and drive by the navy and gold pack. 29-5 to Oaks.
For the next 20 minutes Oaks were rarely troubled and kept Stone at bay, before the visitors put together an effective short lineout play and for a moment at 29-10 looked to be coming back into the game, before Te Hira burst through the defenders to score near the posts for a home try that effectively sealed proceedings. There was time for some further flourishes from both teams, before a champagne try by Goodhew, who jinked over the line after mazy runs from Floyd and Short, capped a great day at the office for Oaks.
Both teams and their coaching departments can take huge credit form the quality of the rugby on show, in a compelling display that befitted the enduring and friendly Mote versus Paddock rivalry.
For photos of the match, from Official Photographer David Purday click here