Bracknell visited the Showground for the very first time, boasting a solid set piece they frustrated the Okes throughout and very nearly held on for what would’ve been a rare away win.
Okes commenced up the slope, but were immediately disrupted when centre Bevon Armitage and flanker Ollie Frances clashed heads in a first minute double tackle attempt. Armitage was able to continue, but was obviously feeling the effects throughout, whilst flanker Francis was unable to play any further part in proceedings.
The Okes looked to move the ball from all parts of the field throughout, but suffered from handling errors and loss of the ball in contact situations too often to allow any fluidity or rhythm in their game.
The visitors had the upper hand at scrum time and after eight minutes they were awarded a penalty, which was successfully landed for an early three point advantage. Okes spent the next quarter in the ascendancy, but weren’t able to string enough phases together to break through the visitors’ defence. Catch and drive attempts were repelled and the frustration increased until the 24th minute when the shackles were broken.
Dan Fogerty put in a cross kick over the narrow green defensive line and the ball eventually found its way to winger Gareth Espin who, supported by his teammates, powered through and over the last tackle to open the Oke’s account. Fogerty was on place kicking duties and slotted a nice conversion to make it 7-3 to the hosts.
Okes failed to build on the score however, and were soon back in their own half. A visiting line- out near halfway produced an effective driving maul and the Okes conceded a penalty whilst on the retreat. It was booted to the corner and it wasn’t long before the visitors had peeled off the fringes to plunder their first, and only try of the afternoon. The left-footed conversion was good and the lead changed hands once more.
Okes responded and spent the rest of the half in the ascendancy but were still unable to find their usual fluent home form. Errors continued, and the stop start nature that slowed the pace of the game suited the visitors.
The first half was nearly at end when the Okes managed to string together enough phases to garner a second five pointer. Several sorties came agonisingly close, before the ball was popped to prop Pat Nash on the hoof charging towards the uprights. The Oke loose head proved unstoppable as he crashed over under the bar to leave Fogerty with a simple conversion, and his side a 4 point lead at the turnaround.
Although the first half was a staccato affair, with the slope in their favour, the Okes would have hoped to pull clear and achieve a bonus point win. The fact that they did neither was down to a combination of factors. The home side coughed up or kicked away possession in the attacking third, supplemented by a tendency to rush and force unnecessary offloads.
Ball retention and phase play was required but the visitors dug in and stayed in the contest. In fact they landed another penalty to reduce the margin to a single point in the 53rd minute. Okes shuffled the pack but this did little to improve their flow and the pack came under increasing pressure, particularly at set scrum time.
Fifteen minutes remained when the Okes finally applied significant pressure on the resistors’ rearguard to plunder a kickable penalty.
Unfortunately, the effort went awry and the home vexation increased. Bracknell sensed an upset and retaliated taking play deep into the host’s red zone.
The home defence was strong, but a penalty was eventually forthcoming. It was landed from right in front and somehow the Okes found themselves trailing by a point, with less than ten minutes left on the clock. One thing that the Okes have shown in spades this campaign though is that they aren’t afraid to play the full eighty, and never give up when they are behind. That will to win was on show once more, as the hosts finally found enough fluidity to take play deep back into the visitors territory as we entered the last few minutes.
The visitors were forced into offending and on 78 minutes Okes had a penalty to the right of the posts, and crucially a chance to regain the lead. Dan Fogerty was cool and composed as he stroked over what looked like the match winning kick. From the restart the Okes booted the ball downfield and were soon awarded further penalties. The first was kicked to the corner and from the resultant pressure another soon followed.
The ref indicated this would be the last play so the Okes decided to go for posts, knowing that if the kick missed, the final whistle would blow. The kick was pulled left but it mattered little and the Okes had stumbled to another win at the Showground, the home fans happy to endure another nail biting last gasp victory.
Okehampton – 17
Bracknell – 16