Weston Super Mare 22,

Okehampton 10

Set-piece errors plus a lack of a killer touch in the red zone saw Okes lose a match they dominated for long periods last weekend.

Okes travelled to a well-resourced Weston outfit who were many people’s pre season favourites for promotion. However, after two defeats the Okes saw this as an opportunity to break their long-running away day run of defeats.

In bright sunshine, the Okes, donning their new away strip, immediately took the game to their hosts. Playing with pace, purpose and a ferocity in defence, they held sway for long periods of the first half. Unfortunately they failed to turn this advantage into the points required. The hosts also lost two players to the sin bin as they struggled to slow the Okes’ attacking ball speed.

Three times in the first half the visitors kicked penalties deep into the hosts’ 22, but each time they came away with nothing as the line-out went awry, a recurring theme throughout.

Meanwhile Weston barely entered Okes territory. However, the one meaningful attack they had brought the first score as they proved the more clinical. Ironically it was ball off the top of a line-out that saw recycled possession, followed by several drives that eventually saw the right winger cross wide out.

Okes’ back row were impressive in defence, with the returning Dean Abrams a real handful. Unfortunately Okes lost Buster Francis and Rob Fishleigh to first-half injuries, though Leon Horn then also belatedly entered the fray after being delayed in traffic. Okes had spells on the hosts line in the first 40 but each time were frustratingly unable to cross the line, so it remained 5-0 at the turnaround.

The maroon and ambers started the second half well and were soon deservedly level, sparked initially by a Leon Horn counter from a kick ahead. A half break from skipper Dan Fogerty got Okes in behind and from the breakdown smart hands to the right eventually put winger Cole Pengelly over in the right corner for an unconverted score.

Okes then made a crucial error straight from the restart. After gathering the ball cleanly and with a low sun in their favour, they decided to run from deep instead of clearing downfield. A stray pass was gleefully intercepted by the home wing and the Okes’ good work was immediately undone. The home fly half added the extras and it was Okes trailing once more.

Weston came increasingly into the game, although it was still nip and tuck. Okes saw errors of the handling and decision types creep in, which again stopped several promising forays. Then with just over 10 minutes remaining they struck for their second try of the afternoon. Oke number eight Saul Holliday broke powerfully from midfield and offloaded just short, but it was knocked forward by a home hand. From the resultant scrum Okes went right before a long miss pass found Cole Pengelly in the open and he dotted down for his brace. Fogerty pulled the conversion, but it set up a tense last 10 minutes.

Okes then conceded almost direct from the restart yet again. This time adjudged to have collapsed a scrum. The home lead was stretched to five with another successful kick. The home side then pressed throughout the last few minutes as Okes struggled to escape their own half. Right on the whistle a five yard attacking scrum ensued, and the home front row was replaced with good effect, as the hosts drove over for the score that sealed the game and denied Okes even a losing bonus point.

So once again Okes return home empty handed. However, pleasingly they are in a much better place than last season. Improved structure, fitness and defence was on show in a match they really could, and should, have wrapped up. Lessons will be learnt hopefully as the Okes look forward to a crunch derby next Saturday against old rivals Launceston at Polson Bridge. Hopefully the short journey will encourage the large travelling support that the Okes’ efforts deserve.