Matches between these two are invariably tight tense affairs. This one was no different as it was in the balance until the very last play, writes Adam Holliday.

The home side sat unbeaten, whilst the Okes were seeking to build on last week’s first victory of the season, their ranks bolstered by the return of  several key faces. 

The large crowd expected a full-on contest and that’s just what they got. Okes began up the hill on a drizzly afternoon at Polson. 

Early signs were not good as early indiscipline allowed the hosts to kick to the corner.  A catch and drive ensued and back rower Tummon grounded to give the home side just the start they wanted. Dan Pearce pulled the conversion left but 5-0 it stood after barely two minutes.

More early home territory and possession was resisted as the Okes eventually gleaned a penalty for a respite. 

Big hits and collisions were the order of the afternoon and as Okes settled they worked their way upfield to set up decent field position. 

A penalty to the corner was followed by a clean take, allowing Okes to batter the fringes before releasing their backline. Richie Friend cut a forceful, incisive line in midfield which cut through the home defence to see him cross behind the posts. Luke Simmons, having another excellent afternoon with the boot, from hand and land, added the extras.

The half then became increasingly attritional, neither side really carving any clear openings, as most looked for contact rather than space. Both sides came and were repelled, before Simmons landed another penalty to make the margin five points. 

Okes failed to deal effectively with the restart, a recurring problem throughout the half, and the home side made  them pay. Close-range drives were held up until flanker Lloyd Duke cut a powerful tight line and slid over for the hosts’ second try. This time Pearce converted and the lead swapped hands once more. 

Increasing niggle then saw Okes Richard Bolt and home hooker Bullut sent to cool off for 10 minutes as the half headed to its conclusion. 

The Okes regained the lead briefly through another Simmons penalty before Okes were pinged from the restart, allowing Pearce to reestablish a home advantage and the half ended at 15-13 to the men in black.

Okes began the second half on the offensive. Reaping penalty awards they applied pressure, and after releasing winger Kieran Lee down the left flank, they were in possession close to the home whitewash. 

Several attempts around the fringes proved unsuccessful before centre Leon Horn stepped in to sneak over beside yet another close-range ruck. Again Simmons was on the money and at 20-15 the Okes once more had a slender lead. The home side regrouped and ramped up the intensity. 

Okes lost lock Brad Curtis to the bin but continued to be obstinate in defence. Pearce missed a penalty chance as the hosts sought to reduce the arrears.

The match entered its last 15 and as Okes made a foray into opposition territory they were awarded a penalty, so up stepped Simmons in an attempt to make it a two-score advantage. His long range effort drifted wide though, and the match remained in the balance. 

The hosts continued to attack and as the pressure increased Okes lost Karl Pearce to the bin and had to see out time remaining a man down. The penalty count grew as Okes were constantly forced to defend their line. Scrums and lineouts were resisted as the Okes refused to buckle. 

Into the last minute and more penalties ensued, the blacks opting for quick taps when a set piece may  have been the wiser option. It mattered little to the visitors though as they continually put their bodies on the line. 

One last surge amongst a pile of bodies brought a sound of the ref’s whistle and the home support thought they were over for the winning score. The ref was right on the spot and adjudged the effort held up in goal; the Okes players and supporters were jubilant as he then blew for full-time.

Never an open classic; these encounters rarely are. Launceston lose their unbeaten record in a match that could have gone either way. Okes’ dogged effort and determination brought them a deserved victory, and another positive step forwards after a difficult start to the campaign. 

A week’s break is up next before the Okes host Lydney in a fortnight’s time. See you there!