Okehampton show grit to beat Newent

Ben Fox
Ben Fox

Backed by a large home gathering courtesy of the Vice President, volunteers and ex-players lunch, the Okes kicked off up the slope.

Both Okehampton and Newent were missing a few regulars, but it was the visitors who applied early pressure, often courtesy of well placed kicks from their experienced number nine Dean.

Newent were to prove a tough adversary throughout and they made their early ascendancy pay when they opened the scoring just minutes later. Sloppy Okes defence, combined with an outside arching break from the visitor’s fly-half was the catalyst. A few phases later the visitors had ploughed over to the right of the uprights to take a deserved lead. The conversion was good and the Okes found themselves seven points down.

The rain continued to pour and unsurprisingly a few balls were spilt before the Okes finally began to settle. They were soon rewarded for some excellent width with a penalty bang in front of the posts at the clubhouse end. Kieran Lee was again the man with the kicking tee and he slotted the penalty to reduce the margin to four points with a quarter of an hour gone. Play was fiercely contested for the next ten minute spell, as both sides strove for a telling breakthrough.

Okes were forced to dig on more defensive resolve before escaping the confines of their twenty two, eventually taking play to their ten yard line. Little looked on as the ball was shipped right; Newent had plenty of numbers but a timely pass from full back Gareth Espin gave Kieran Lee a slither of space up the right flank. The wingman made it pay as he set off at pace before cutting nicely infield to link with his support. Drawing the defender nicely he offloaded to Rhys Palmer racing up on his inside. The Okes centre had too much gas for the visitors as he sped over for the host’s first five pointer of the afternoon. Unfortunately the extras were not forthcoming, but the crowd were now roused and the Okes in font, albeit by a mere point.

Handling errors and turnovers were abundant during the rest of the second quarter, until the visitors regained their advantage with their second try as the interval approached. Okes scrum was generally on top at set piece time and there appeared to be little danger as once more they shoved the men in green back on their own put in, just outside the Okes’ twenty two. Visiting number eight Phelps did well with retreating ball, but as he went blind the Okes failed to defend efficiently and a relatively soft try was the result.

This time the conversion drifted wide but the Okes found themselves trailing again; 12-8 with a couple of minutes remaining in the first forty. The Okes briefly threatened once more as the break loomed but it eventually came to nothing, before both sides retired to drier indoor comforts when the half time whistle blew. Replacements Joe Mawle and Buster Francis entered the fray in the second forty, and were soon in the thick of it as the Okes had the better of both early territory and possession. However a reluctance to use the boot appropriately given the conditions allowed the
Newent defence to function effectively and prevent an early home score.

The Okes were not their usual fluent selves, hardly surprising given the conditions, although the rain had relented as the Okes finally applied severe pressure as the clock ticked onto the 56th minute mark. Rob Dugard and Pat Nash returned to the action as the Okes battered away gaining an
attacking five metre scrum chance. Scrum penalties were forced but the ref declined to exhibit the expected yellow. Dugard was then adjudged held up over the line, as the crucial score continued to prove elusive for the boys in maroon and amber.

Newent then lost a man to injury, after he bravely tackled a full pelt Bevon Armitage as the Okes continued to pile on the pressure. More home scrums and resultant rucks on the Newent try line ensued, before the dam was finally breached in the 67th minute. Several pick and goes were rebuffed, before lock Sam Turner eventually forced his way over to regain the lead. A fitting reward for another excellent, selfless performance from the Okes’ second rower. Kieran Lee potted the simple extras and the Okes were finally back in front at fifteen points to twelve. The determined visiting side were not out of this contest though and they forced several close range lineouts in the last ten minutes.

The Okes defence held firm throughout this tense period as they sought a crucial home victory.  Newent continued to monopolise the ball as the Okes occasionally manged a relieving boot with time ticking away. Nerves were still frayed as the match entered its last throes, more strong Okes defence forced a knock on in midfield and the victory was finally sealed. The Okes securing four points after a well contested hard fought encounter.

Okhampton – 15

Newent – 12

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