The Oaks played out a dramatic win at home to top 4 side Hessle in a tough fought game at Niagara. The home side welcomed some new, and some returning faces into the match day squad. The positive atmosphere and attitude, coupled with some impassioned defence and attacking intent lead to a 20-17 victory over the visiting side. It is the kind of result that the Oaks have promised for much of the season, but for various reasons have failed to put together.
After the first ten minutes, the result might have looked a long way off. The away side shook off the long trip and battered the home defence with a simple yet effective game plan: pass it to the big lads and run over them. Yet, despite conceding early on, the Oaks felt that they had worked out the opposition and knew they were vulnerable. The early storm was weathered and the Oaks looked to make their mark on the game.
With returning superstar prop Michael Kontou and new face in the first team Jonny Wilson adding to the already formidable front five, the set piece was a constant strength throughout the game and resulted in an unstoppable line-out drive, with 8-for-the-day Aled Vaughan dotting down. The conversion was added by impressive fly half Joel Brasher, whose boot, from hand and tee was strong all afternoon.
Oaks now knew that if they kept hold of the ball then they could make opportunities count, both through the set piece and in open play. Despite some injury-enforced rejigging in the back line, with returning stalwart Laurence Canham stepping into the mid field, the Oaks stuck to their guns, keeping hold of the ball, making the away side make mistakes and give away penalties and keep the scoreboard ticking. This they duly did, with Brasher adding a penalty to make the score 10-5 at the break.
Despite the tight score line and early conceded try, the Oaks were positive in their half time chat, emphasising the need to play in the right areas and apply the pressure, knowing the points would follow.
Just as before the break, the Oaks came out in the second half and dominated possession. With the forwards bullying the away pack, and stealing ball seemingly at will from both scrums and line-outs, the back division had good possession to play with and created some good opportunities. Full back Damien Roberts was stopped just short after expansive play that moved the ball through the forwards and backs alike. Flying wing Melvyn Codling, who ran positively all day, was deemed just in touch after a dive for the corner.
Despite the expansive, attacking play, it was the forward pack, and serial poacher Vaughan who got the next points. Another period of dominant forward play lead to the back rower flopping over the line in majestic fashion for his second of the day. Brasher slotting the conversion once again.
The high flying away side were not going to take a loss lying down and came out firing, intent on overturning the home side. What followed was a period of Hessle possession in which they battered away at the home try line. Despite the away team managing to get over the line a couple of times, the Oaks showed some staunch defence and a confrontational attitude. A few flare ups deep in the home 22 unified the resolve and a will to win was evident in the remaining minutes.
Oaks knew that as long as they dominated possession and territory in final minutes of the game then the win was theirs. A mixture of smart kicking from half-backs Mark Robert and Brasher, along with strong carries and committed defence allowed the home side to run down the clock and prevent a Hessle comeback. A final opportunity for points was missed with the final play, but with the ball sailing over the dead ball line, the match was won. Final score 20-17 to the Oaks.
On the day, a strong team effort, refreshed with new and old faces showed over 80 minutes what the Sheffield side have shown themselves capable of over periods of most games this season. The travelling top 4 side clearly did not anticipate the quality and commitment of the home team. The aim for the Oaks will be to replicate this level of performance in remaining games.
This weekend, the Oaks welcome local club Wath 4s to Fortress Niagara for a squad game. The game is preceded by a club meeting outlining to the players the potential future playing facilities as the Oaks plan for a permanent home. All players and club members are encouraged to attend. Next week, on Tuesday 12th, the Oaks begin their charge on the South Yorkshire Cup with an away game to Hallamshire at Bawtry.