Olney RFC Colts reach national quarter final by slimmest of margins
Match Report by Fraser Bull
Olney Colts welcomed Hereford Colts to East Street in the last 16 of the National Colts Cup. Playing with a strong wind Olney unusually started well and scored an early try out wide through Ryan Hammett following excellent recycling and interplay through the team. The try was unconverted. With the wind and lead Olney would have expected to kick-on and increase their advantage but a very strong and talented Hereford team, brimming with North Midlands county players, showed why they have such a fantastic record this season. Their particularly impressive ball carrying forwards ran hard off rucks and their backs were uncompromising in their defence resulting in a real battle across the pitch.
Olney did have their opportunities but a couple of penalty kicks were missed in the wind. Hereford’s power and control meant that they began to take a foothold in the game and had a number of chances deep in the Olney half which were often snubbed out by incredible last ditch tackling by the Olney players. Hereford did finally get some reward when they converted a penalty and as half time arrived the general view was that with the wind advantage a 5-3 lead was not enough for Olney.
Sure enough Hereford threw everything at Olney in the second half, using the wind and their running lines, they exerted huge pressure on the Olney defence for the next 20 minutes and after wave after wave of attacks finally got a further score. A series of offloads and interplay between forwards and backs resulted in a try under the posts that was converted. With Hereford 10-5 ahead it left Olney with a massive uphill challenge.
However this team does not know when it is beaten and played an outstanding last 15 minutes.
Against a now confident Hereford and playing into the strengthening wind, the team pulled together, adapted their game to play off shorter passes and drove at Hereford across the pitch. They hammered away trying to find a way through, and with Hereford kicking to relieve pressure, this meant Olney had more of the ball than they’d had in the rest of the game and were finally able to exert some sustained pressure. The Hereford defence held firm but with both teams tiring after the intensity of the game there was always the hope of a chance.
After a number of 5m attacking scrums and penalties to Olney it appeared Hereford had seen off the challenge, despite going down to 14 men following a yellow card. However in one final twist a Hereford scrum was won against the head by Olney, they attacked through 3 phases and finally, centre Eliot Simpson found the smallest of gaps to go through and touch down on the line, again out wide. With the conversion missed and no further time to play the game ended 10-10. Under cup rules the team scoring most tries goes through meaning Olney will play in the National Quarter Finals in a fortnights time.
This was a tremendous game watched by a huge crowd. It was incredibly physical and had two superb teams going toe to toe throughout. The clear exhaustion and emotion shown at the end showed that no players had left anything on the field. This Colts side have reached the last 8 in the country following reaching the last 4 last year as under 17s. They are a tremendous bunch of talented players that really don’t know when they are beaten and demonstrate true team spirit. Their tackling and defence for the whole game, by all players, was outstanding and whilst it is a shame for such a talented team as Hereford not to be in the last 8 they gave a performance they can be proud of.
Olney will play Chinnor, away, in the next round on 19 March.
Photo of Ryan Hammett scoring the first try, taken by Hannah Bowden