Okes felled by All Blacks

Ben Fox
Ben Fox

On a highly successful day off the pitch, Okehampton fell to a second consecutive home defeat on it, as the visitors dominated possession for long periods.

In front of the largest crowd seen at the showground for some time, the Okes lost the toss and played down the slope first up for the first time this season. Spectators’ expectations were high for what promised to be a hard-fought encounter on an excellent surface. However, the first half turned out to be a stop-start affair.

Launceston grasped early possession and went on to monopolise it for long periods of the first half. Okes were unable to get their hands on the ball.

The Cornish All Blacks’ pack held sway at scrum time while also successfully disrupting the home line-out on numerous occasions.

The only score of the opening half came via the boot of Oke’s Richie Friend, who landed a penalty at the end of the first quarter. The visitors lost a forward to the bin as additional punishment, but the home side failed to take further advantage. Defences remained on top as the half came to an uninspiring conclusion.

The second half was to be a far more entertaining affair. After an early penalty miss from their visitors, the Okes began to glean a little more possession. On 51 minutes it was the visitors who struck — the chase of an Oke box kick left the home left flank exposed; a Launceston kick ahead into the free space bounced kindly for those in black and winger Dan Pearce crossed for the game’s first try. The conversion was wide but the visitors now had a lead they would not relinquish.

The Oke restart failed to travel the required ten and shortly after they were penalised at a set scrum, allowing Pearce to kick and extend the lead to five points with just over a quarter of the match remaining.

The Okes responded with the backs starting to create more space out wide; they created an attacking opportunity up the clubhouse touchline but after good use of the boot, found themselves deep back in their own 22 just seconds later. The away side took full advantage of this territorial swing as they soon grounded their second try of the half with centre Ryan Westren forcing his way over; this was converted by Pearce for a 12 point cushion 20 minutes to go.

Slowly but surely, the Okes began to apply pressure and as a result numerous penalty awards came their way. The home side did manage to encroach on Launceston’s try line after 65 minutes. Karl Pearce roused the host’s support further as he bulldozed his way over from short range after a quick tap and go from the home side. The conversion was missed but the Okes had dragged themselves back into the contest.

Unfortunately for Oke, due to scrummage troubles, another penalty at set piece time allowed Pearce to extend the margin back to ten points with ten minutes left.

The Okes were not done though and as yet more penalties came their way they booted the ball into the corner searching for an immediate riposte. They eventually made the pressure tell as Richie Friend reached out an extended arm after more strong forward drives to give the maroon and ambers a sliver of hope. This time he converted and it was now 15-18 with barely two minutes remaining.

The Okes tried to attack from deep after the kick off, with the clock against them they opted not to relive via the boot. However, a knock-on ensued and the resultant scrum had an air of inevitability about it. Sure enough another Launceston penalty was the outcome; Pearce potted it to seal an away win as the final whistle blew immediately after the kick had landed.

Okehampton – 15

Launceston    – 21