Sevenoaks RFC 1st XV travelled to Dorking RFC on Saturday for the first match between the teams in over thirty years. Both sides had the same win / loss record from their opening four games – two wins and two losses.
On a perfect day for rugby, helped by the excellent surface at Big Field, the home side struck early through a well taken penalty to lead 3-0 will only a few minutes gone. Oaks had the opportunity to respond straight away, and Tom Gray duly stroked over a penalty to draw his side level.
Gray was back in the action a few moments later, as Oaks worked the ball to the left hand side via some excellent handling and structure. The full back broke free, handed off a defender and then put debutant scrum-half Henry Galligan through to finish an outstanding team try. Gray converted and Oaks were 10-3 to the good.
Whilst Oaks seemed to have the slight upper hand for the next ten minutes, they were punished for a poor lapse in defence as the home side broke down the right and finished well in the corner for an unconverted score. This was followed up later in the half as the ball seemed to ping-pong around before falling into the hands of the Dorking player, who again screeched over in the left hand side to give the home side a 13-10 lead. Two lapses in concentration and Oaks had been punished.
With less than ten minutes of the first half remaining, Oaks took the lead again, this time through the excellent Sam Porter, who bundled his way over from the back of a driving maul. The conversion was missed but this score was followed up by a dropped goal from Oaks fly half Tom Simmonds, who cooly slotted over his attempt from thirty metres out. At half time, Oaks led 18-13.
As both sides came out for the second half, one could tell that the next score was going to be crucial. To Dorking’s credit, they manoeuvred and managed the next 20 minutes to their advantage, with Oaks not really being able to land a blow. Dorking then took the lead after a sustained attack after a well worked cross field kick and gather from the winger. The excellent conversion then gave them the lead, 20-18.
The remainder of the match was played in between the middle of the park, but crucially Dorking were able to force two further penalties, which their kicker converted to give his side a solid cushion at 26 points to 18.
Whilst although they had chances, Oaks failed to land a killer blow with failures in the detail of their game at crucial times.
To their credit, with the clock in the red, Oaks put together one last attack as Gray spotted space on the right hand side, putting in an inch perfect kick for Josh Livett to run on to. Livett evaded the attentions of three Dorking players before breaking through to score for another excellent try. Whilst it was unconverted, Oaks had secured a losing bonus point with the final score 26-23.
After the match, Head Coach Adam Bowman said ‘That’s a game which will frustrate the group. Whilst Dorking deserved the win, we felt that we had moments which provided us with opportunities to win the game. The first twenty minutes of the second half were crucial really and that is where Dorking showed the way.’
‘But, it shows that we are more than able to compete at this level, we just need to make sure we are continuing to learn from our errors and lapses in concentration. Next week’s game (against Brighton Blues) is another big one – we know how tough a team Brighton will be having had big battles with them last season, so we will need to make sure we are on top of our game.’