On a very mild Wednesday afternoon at their Preston campus, Myerscough College’s Rugby AASE Academy side (Sales Sharks Academy) played host to Oaklands College from Hertfordshire (Saracens Academy).
The home side started strongly with man in form Curtis Strong picking up the ball wide on the right wing. Strong stepped outside and brushed past his opposite number to score the opening try under the posts. Converted by Myerscough no.10 Ally Addy giving Myerscough an early 7-0 lead.
After 12 minutes Myerscough added to their lead. After a flowing passing move through the hands of the Myerscough backs, the ball found its way to England Colleges’ player Orisi Nawaqaliva on the right-hand touchline. After handing off his opposite number, Nawaqaliva sprinted 30 yards, avoiding the pursuit of several Oaklands’ players to score in the corner. Ally Addy kicked his second conversion of the match from the right-hand to give Myerscough an early 14-0 lead.
The home sides’ early dominance continued as Myerscough’s forwards piled on the pressure, exemplified by a crushing tackle in the centre of the park by Prop Forward Connor McGrath.
On 23 minutes, Oaklands College opened their account with a converted try by their impressive looking No.11 – Myerscough 14 Oaklands 7.
The try from the visitors served only to strengthen the resolve of Myerscough’s forwards. After another Connor McGrath carry, Ralf Dowd picked up and ran the ball over the line for Myerscough’s third try in only 26 minutes. With a missed conversion the score stood at 19-7 to the home side.
Oaklands quickly fired back scoring a try directly from the restart. Their second converted try brought the score to 19-14 to Myerscough.
With the score narrowing towards the end of the first half, the big hits were coming in from both teams. On 36 minutes the Oaklands No.11 again broke away in what looked like a certain try. Pulled down five yards short of the Myerscough line, Oaklands’ scrum half picked up from the ruck and dived over the line. The visitors third try on the stroke of half time put them in front for the first time in the match.
Starting the second half 21-19 down, Myerscough were immediately put on the back foot as the visitors dominated early exchanges in the opening ten minutes of the second half. Clearly still on a high after going in at half time with the lead, Oaklands threw everything they had at the home side, who defended doggedly, stopping a near certain try on their own line.
Despite a string of bit hits from their forwards, Myerscough could only absorb the pressure for so long and conceded a penalty ten minutes into the second half. After an easy kick in front of the posts Oakland took a 24-19 lead.
Five minutes later and Oaklands ran in their fourth try to stretch their lead to 31-19, quickly followed by a fifth try two minutes later to make the score 36-19. The first twenty minutes of the second half changed the landscape of the game completely for Myerscough who conceded 17 points in as many minutes.
It was clear however that Myerscough were not ready to throw in the towel. When the visitors gave away a penalty, Myerscough kicked deep into the corner to win a lineout five yards from the Oaklands try line. In a well-rehearsed ‘catch and drive’ move, Myerscough’s forwarded out powered the opposition pack, diving over to bring the score to 36-24.
Five minutes later and Myerscough won another lineout in an identical position. Spurred on by their previous try, the Myerscough forwards initiated another ‘catch and drive’ move. Initially held up by their opposition pack, Myerscough’s forward dug deep and again drove the ball over the try line to make the score a nail biting 36-29.
In a complete turnaround from the start of the half, Myerscough were now well and truly on top, with their opposition clearly hoping for the final whistle. In a final last gasp attempt, Myerscough’s forwards drove the ball to the half way line, until the ball was turned over and kicked into touch by a relived Oaklands’ centre.
After an exhausting and extremely physical game in which no team deserved to lose, Oaklands College recorded a narrow 36-29 victory over Myerscough College.