Olney see off Market Harborough in close encounter
Match Report by Steve Micklewright
Olney hosted a Market Harborough side 2 places below them in the league and hoping to make amends for one of their poorest performances of the season at Harborough in November.
Olney started off at a storming pace and from half way, after 2 minutes play, slick handling from the Olney backs put in winger Phil Bowden who dotted down under the posts to give the home side the start they were after. Patch Adams duly obliged with the conversion and Olney lead 7-0.
The away side were struggling for possession in the early exchanges and Olney quickly won a scrum on half way, which after good interplay between backs and forwards, resulted in a line-out close to the Harborough line. Bamboozled by an earlier side-step from hooker Jim Osborn (he told me to write that) the away defence could not cope with the driving maul at the line-out and Cam Kok
bundled over to give Olney their second try. The conversion just failed to leave Olney 12 points ahead after only 6 minutes.
Olney continued to dominate the early exchanges with the back row of Isaac Shields, Gareth Cahill and especially Charlie Harris prominent, but handling errors and then indiscipline at the ruck enabled Harborough to relieve the pressure and bring play into the Olney 22 from an ensuing penalty. The away sides line-out stood firm and for the first time in the game the Olney line was threatened. The defence held firm and a clean strike at the scrum by Osborn enabled Patch Adams to clear to half-way where Olney then stole the line-out. From here scrum-half Cam Keenan combined well with centre Marcus Goss as they broke through the mid-field defence of the visitors, only for the attack to break down 5 metres from the line from a wayward pass, Harborough eventually relieved the pressure but the Olney line-out was functioning well and possession was retained. A promising move was once again thwarted by a forward pass and the half continued in the same vein with Olney enjoying the bulk of territory and possession but handling errors keeping the opposition in the game.
Olney eventually paid the price as half-time approached, a 22 drop out went straight into touch and from the resulting scrum Harborough ran the ball wide after the initial drive and out-paced the Olney defence to score in the corner. The conversion was missed but Market Harborough were back in the game at 12-5 with 36 minutes on the clock.
As it turned out Olney were to have the last say before half-time with an immediate riposte. The ball found its way into the hands of Phil Bowden who seeing an opportunity used his pace to rip through the visitors defence and attack their line. He was tackled short but Cam Keenan was on hand to pick up the ruck ball and muscle over the line to restore Olney’s 12 point lead. The conversion just missed and the half time whistle was immediately blown, the mid-way score favouring the home side 17-5.
A good Olney crowd were expecting their side to press home the advantage in the 2nd half but the Market Harborough side were in no mood to give in and after only 5 minutes into the period they hit back with a counter attack that was to epitomise the remainder of the game, with Olney playing an expansive game and handling errors and indiscipline giving their opponents the opportunity to counter attack. Harborough picked up loose ball and moved the ball through the hands to put the right winger in for a try and although the kick was missed the deficit had been reduced to 7 points and Olney had not got going in the 2nd half. The Harborough outside centre was looking more and more dangerous in open play and made a great break from well within his own half, only to be halted by a great tackle from winger Phil Bowden. Unfortunately for Olney support was at hand and the try was scored. Fortunately (for Olney) the conversion struck the upright and they retained a slender lead 17-15 within only 10 mins of the second 2nd played.
A big tackle by Jordan Letts held up another Harborough attack as the visitors gained in confidence and pushed for the lead. A scrum offence gave Harborough the chance of a shot at goal, but in difficult kicking conditions the attempt fell short and Olney cleared to the 10 metre line.
The frenetic nature of the game and the close score gave the crowd great entertainment. Olney made changes bring Cam Kok back on into the row with Jake Ashton also coming on for te injured Graham Smith in the front row, Jim Osborn moving to prop. Isaac Shields was then sin binned in the 58th for breaking early at the scrum but the penalty attempt was once again missed.
The Olney 14 dug deep and defended hard as Harborough tried to press home the one man advantage. Unfortunately for Olney a charged down clearance kick was picked up by the visitors No 6 and he scored under the posts, giving an easy conversion as Olney went behind for the first time 17-22.
Olney were stung into action with the game going into its last quarter. Letts made a break but Olney were penalised at the ruck and the danger was cleared. Olney came back again and Letts drilled a penalty deep into Harborough territory. Olney’s line-out held and Cam Kok drove over for his second try of the game. Adams nailed a great conversion and Olney were once gain ahead 24-22 with approximately 12 minutes remaining. (The strains of “I love Kok” from Basher in the South West corner are always a joy to hear)!
From the kick-off Olney were able to pin back their opponents and good defence from a Harborough line-out gave Olney the scrum put in within the 22. A solid scrum and a back row drive gave Olney momentum and Keegan Anderson was able to worm his way over to give Olney a 7 point advantage with only minutes remaining. However instead of closing the game down Olney were guilty of trying to be too expansive with the game in the bag. A dropped ball and once again the Harborough midfield pounced, breaking through from within their own half to score in the right hand corner. With the last kick of the game the conversion struck the post and Olney were relieved to have held out for a 29-27 victory. Not the greatest performance but an entertaining encounter and the 5 points gained leaves Olney in good stead as they travel to 2nd place Oadby next Saturday
Olney team: Graham Smith, Jim Osborn, Jeremiah Shields, Keegan Anderson, Cam Kok, Charlie Harris, Isaac Shields, Gareth Cahill, Cam Keenan, Patch Adams, Phil Bowden, Jordan Letts, Marcus Goss, Jake Deighton, Eliot Simpson; Subs: Jake Ashton, Peter Tokarski-Grasby, Lloyd Sweeney