Regional 1 South West

Okehampton 25

Launceston 24

A TIGHT encounter was always likely as two in-form sides, Okehampton and Launceston lined up for a rearranged clash on Saturday, writes Adam Holliday.

Okehampton needed to continue their recent run as they sought to maintain their push away from the relegation spots. Launceston comfortably saw off high-flying Chew Valley last time out and were sure to present a huge test.

In front of a sizeable crowd the Okes kicked off down the slope on a dry afternoon, playing slightly into the breeze.

Early interactions set the tone for what was to follow, as both sides battled it out toe to toe with no quarter asked or given.

Okey had a slight initial upper hand and struck first in the seventh minute. Play was taken close to the visitors’ line through Okey’s charges close-in, and eventually prop Tom White burrowed over to give the hosts just the start they wanted. Captain Dan Fogerty potted the extras and the hosts were out of the blocks.

Both sides were increasingly physical and committed in defence as the first quarter wore on.

Home scrum-half Richard Bolt was always keen to take a quick tap-and-go whenever the visitors infringed.

He’d already kept the All-Blacks on their toes before the perfect opportunity arose. Around the 20-minute mark, yet another digression occurred and the in-form number nine needed no second invitation as he tapped and set off en-route to the try line. The visitors could not reel him in, and the Okes had doubled their advantage once Fogerty added the simple conversion.

Things were going to plan at this juncture for the home side, but the visitors had other ideas. They spent the next fifteen minutes on the offensive, forcing Okes to defend in the shadow of their own posts on numerous occasions.

The hosts defended superbly but let themselves down by repeatedly infringing once they had managed to clear their lines. This allowed the All-Blacks to punt back into the corner and keep Okes on the back foot for extended periods.

Only five minutes of the half remained when inevitably the continuous pressure took its toll. Prop Tom White saw yellow in the same passage of play that saw the ball shipped left from a close range ruck, allowing centre Conrad Burne to cross to reduce the deficit. The extras were missed but it was clear that this encounter would likely ebb and flow throughout.

Just before the interval the Okes forced a kickable penalty which Fogerty dispatched to make the margin 12 points, as both sides retreated to the changing rooms with the half-time score at 17 points to 5.

A fierce second 40 was no doubt in store. Littered with hits and handbags aplenty it was obvious this fixture meant a lot to all on show. The visitors began brightly, but the Okes hit them with a classic counter attack score in the 45th minute to extend their lead. 

Midfield ball was moved left where Tom Mcgrattan, having another impressive outing fed Karl Pearce lurking in the wide channels. The Okes’ lock, outstanding all afternoon, gave the crowd a flashback to his previous winger incarnation as he powered away up the left leaving the defence floundering in his wake. 

A neat, one-handed offload on his inside to Dan Fogerty, running an intelligent support line, followed and the Okes’ skipper dashed over wide left to the delight of the home support. The conversion was missed but the margin now seemed a relatively comfortable one.

Of course, anyone following the Maroon and Ambers this season will know that it is never a done deal, and with the visitors refusing to buckle there were twists and turns aplenty on the horizon. As the All-Blacks ramped up the pressure, the penalties mounted up. Okes were under the pump once more as we approached the 53rd minute. 

Oke prop Tom White, having a very eventful afternoon, picked up his second yellow and therefore a red card, for a deliberate knock-on. 

Okes were now really up against it and the visitors’ tails were firmly up. 

The rejigged home eight packed down for a defensive scrum two minutes later. 

The visitors got a shove on and with the scrum wheeling slightly, visiting scrum half Collings took advantage of a large gap in the Okes’ rearguard to snipe over for the visitors second try of the afternoon. Dan Pearce converted and with the Okes a man down and the lead narrowed to 22-12, it was really game on.

Okes regrouped and spent the next five minutes back in the attacking half. They came close to increasing their lead as they battered away, before visiting hooker Bulut took a yellow as the Okes’ pack had a resurgence. 

Dan Fogerty opted to extend the lead by another three points, as he slotted the resultant penalty to make it 25-12 with a quarter of an hour remaining. 

Unfortunately the increased breathing space did not last long, as barely three minute later an uncharacteristically lax spell in the home defence allowed winger Pearce to scoot over, before self-converting to really set the home nerves jangling at 25- 19 with 10 to play.

Okes were now hanging on and down to the bare bones, as Jonny King left the field through injury. The Okes continued to hold out as home finger nails took a battering. Time was nearly up, but the visitors were now camped in the Okes’ 22 and when home prop Pat Nash also saw yellow it seemed that the tide had now fully turned.  

The visitors pressured the Okes’ line and with seconds remaining, their outstanding flanker George Bone forced his way over mid-way out with the last play of the match to seemingly snatch a victory right at the death. Pearce stepped up for the match winning conversion with the last kick of this enthralling encounter. Okes charged in hope, and the kick drifted on the breeze before striking the left upright and bouncing forward to the delight and relief of the home players and supporters alike. 

The final whistle sounded as all and sundry finally caught their breath.

So, a breathless and exciting encounter that could have gone either way. Great credit goes to both sides for a terrific match that highlights the quality and commitment that exists at this level. A great advert for local rugby. 

Okehampton have three matches remaining and will hope for another strong performance when they travel to newly crowned champions Camborne next Saturday. 

As always your support would be greatly appreciated.