The day of reckoning arrived and the boys in maroon and amber delivered. The club will now be playing level five rugby next season, for the first time in its illustrious history.
What a remarkable season it’s been for the Okes. Needing two points to secure the title, to make Launceston’s result irrelevant and guarantee promotion, the boys travelled to the Rectory for a tough looking last fixture, the Plymouth side having only suffered two narrow losses at home all campaign. It was a fitting finale as the Okes completed the circle, having beaten Services at home in the first fixture by 40 points and replicating that on this most important of afternoons.
Twelve minutes had passed when the Okes made a crucial early breakthrough. The front row made initial inroads, Pat Nash, George Trerise and Rob Dugard in fact carried manfully all match. When the ball was moved left to Rhys Palmer there was no stopping him, as the powerful centre crashed over wide out for a 5-0 lead after the conversion dropped short.
Devonport had their moments, but it was still the Okes who were probing for a second score as the match entered its second quarter. Then on twenty five minutes a key moment in the match took place.
Devonport turned over possession and with the Okes backline out of shape, a kick ahead into space saw Kieran Lee alone in the backfield.
As the ball landed, and with Services players all around, he hit the bouncing ball at full pace and with an astonishing running pickup he sliced through the bemused defenders to cross for a superb, and crucial, second five pointer.
This seemed to galvanise the hosts who then had their best spell of the match. A penalty and a smart lineout nearly brought them a first score but the Okes held out.
However the respite was a brief one, as number eight Gregory powered over several phases later, leaving an easy conversion to make it tighter than expected at the interval.
The Okes now faced the most important forty minutes of their rugby careers. Personnel changes were made, but as in the first half they began with intent. After initially stealing an opposition lineout, Karl Pearce popped up wide left after an initial Kieran Lee insertion.
A deft offload to his skipper allowed Tom McGrattan to show his wheels, as he dashed over in the bottom left corner to give the Okes just the start to the second half they wanted.
The match was now into the last quarter and the Okes were still striving for the all-important fourth try. Services accumulated more injuries and as they tried everything to break the Okes’ solid defence they were forced into an error. A telegraphed long miss pass was astutely anticipated by Okes’ Dan Fogerty and the fly half scampered in from near halfway to set off much rejoicing amongst the Okes support.
With just over five minutes remaining the Okes forced another vital turnover. This time the ball was moved right through the hands; full back Richie Friend entered the line and threw a smart long pass to replacement Ryan Lee. The fleet footed right winger needed no second invitation to scorch over in the corner to surely seal the deal.
Almost immediately the Okes were cutting loose once more. This time ball via a set scrum went sweetly through the back’s hands to Richie Friend entering the line at pace. He sliced through another gap in the home defence before eventually releasing Ryan Lee once more, this time popping up on the left flank before flying over in the opposite corner to his first five pointer. Richie Friend converted and at 36-7 the game and the title were now surely secure.
As the clock reached stoppage time the Okes were still seeking another score. Another lineout steal and back’s hands saw Richie Friend enter the line once more, but this time he was to go it alone as he raced home to put a perfect gloss on the Okes finish.
Devonport – 7
Okehampton – 41
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