THE home side, on the back of two vital wins in their last two games, began up the slope on a dry crisp afternoon, writes Adam Holliday.

Early signs were promising as the hosts dominated territory and possession throughout the first 15 minutes. Welcoming back Rhys Palmer after 1324 days out of the maroon and amber, looking like he had never been away as the hosts went through the phases.

The Okes turned down several kickable opportunities, opting for line-out or scrum instead. The option backfired as they failed to come away with any points from the considerable time spent in the red zone.

The visitors held firm and were rewarded for their defensive tenacity with a penalty that took them into Okes’ 22 for the first time. They caught and drove effectively and the Okes were unable to repel their driving effort. The converted score gave the Forest of Dean outfit a lead against the run of play.

Okehampton did not panic, however, and were soon awarded another kickable penalty which they wisely opted to put between the uprights. Luke Simmons was successful on what would be a very profitable afternoon for the Okes full-back.

For the next period, play was evenly balanced until the Okes conceded another penalty, just after the half-hour mark, which the visitors landed to restore their seven-point advantage.

The home fans were wondering how their side were behind at this point, and hoping for a response they were soon rewarded.

Lydney lost one to the bin and the home side took full advantage. Okes attacked and, with the Lydney defence stretched, a wide pass allowed Luke Simmons to force his way over towards the clubhouse corner. He was unable to convert, but the margin was now a mere two as the interval loomed.

Lydney came once more, and the hosts were forced deep into their own 22, having to defend manfully against both close-range lineout and scrum. They kept the black-and-whites out, and even broke clear through a kick ahead and gather from Leon Horn who was tackled into touch just short as the half-time whistle blew.

Oke restarted with the slope in their favour. An early Lydney yellow helped their cause and with Saul Holliday rampant at eight and Tom McGrattan pilfering lineouts for fun, the hosts were now fully on the offensive.

They probed and threatened with no clear openings until the 53rd minute. It was that man Simmons in the spotlight once more. He punted high and long and benefited from the unpredictable bounce of a rugby ball, volleying the loose ball towards the line before regathering and grounding for his brace of five-pointers. He converted, giving Okes the lead for the first time in the match.

Home flanker Abrams then had an enforced 10-minute rest before Simmons added another three points to extend the lead. He soon added another three to his ever-growing points tally minutes later, and the margin was now a more comfortable 11 points entering the last quarter.

The last 20 was all action. Lydney came again and threatened to reduce the deficit. Sonny Luxton was next to see yellow and the Okes came under pressure.

This Okehampton side is more resilient these days though, and they held firm before working their way downfield as the match approached its conclusion. There was still time for incidents aplenty though; firstly Simmons added another long range penalty to make it a two-score game. Then Abrams received a harsh second yellow, ending his participation.

Down to 14 yet again, the Okes may have shut up shop and held out for the win but when Lydney turned the ball over the Okes moved it wide, allowing fly-half Dan Fogerty to scoot over at pace and put the result to bed into time added on. Kieran Lee converted but was there time for one more score?

There sure was. Lydney began to implode and took a yellow and red to give Okes the chance to punt to the corner for the last play. Hooker Jake Shin had been on the money all afternoon and this time was no different.

A clean gather and drive ended with the hooker being the ultimate beneficiary, as he went over for Okey’s bonus point try. No conversion, but the whistle went immediately afterwards to round off a fine afternoon’s work for the Maroon and Ambers.

Confidence is visibly growing week-on-week as the youngsters continue to blossom and the wise old heads keep things on the right course. Next week sees a long trip to newly-promoted Matson. Your support would be greatly appreciated.