The 2s side facing Thatcham on the warm dry afternoon of Saturday the 15th September was one of the youngest ever fielded. With 4 players making their debut, this was to be a test of the Harlequins’ future.
The game began slowly, with neither team making much impact, only Thatcham’s poor discipline granting the Quins an upper hand (even giving them a second chance after a poor penalty attempt, by jumping the gun on the charge down). Thatcham’s errors were compounded when a well worked move from a scrum combined with strong running from George Hopson, led to Kieran Sadler crashing over for the first Quin’s try of the day.
It felt at that point, that just as they had last week and the season before, the 2s were going to run away with it. With the experience that age brings, however, the bulky Thatcham forwards threw a spanner in the works; their maul. Once the sack was missed from the lineout, the lightweight Oxford pack could do little as the ball was rumbled over their tryline for a Thatcham try.
With some well kicked penalties from both Dan Todd and the opposition skipper the half time score was 10-17 to Oxford Harlequins.
As the second half began, and tactics practiced in the week faded to a distant memory, the game was played close-in to the breakdown, and became increasingly scrappy. Thatcham's large pack and runners tipped the balance in their favour and the Quins were under pressure. The scoreline was only kept tight by the well-ordered defence of the 2s, led by the poaching of Stuart Macdonald, and some magnificent individual skill from Kieran DeLange: scoring with a chip and chase and preventing a Thatcham try by sweeping the ball out from under the player as he dived to score a try.
With 5 minutes to go, the score was 17-20 and the Quin’s 22 was once again under siege. Phase after phase crashed against the Harlequin line, but the defence held until Thatcham gained a penalty kick to the corner, and with no trouble mauled another try over the line to put them in the lead, 22-20.
And so… the Quins look to the ref - the kick off shall be the last play of the game. Confidently the young team approaches the halfway line. Picturing their hit on the catcher, the forwards line up on the left, ready to chase. Toddie reaches his spot, raises the ball above his head, lowers it, then kicks. The pack is released, charging towards their targets. All of them, Oxford and Thatcham alike, falling for Dan Todd’s dummy as the ball curves to the right toward the sprinting Keiran DeLange. Keiran expertly gathers the ball on the wing and scythes through the startled Thatcham backs with a darting run.
Finally he is tackled, but in their desperate attempt to keep Quins from surging forward, Thatcham give away a penalty and once again, the fate of the game is in the cool hands of Dan Todd. He places the tee. All players watching with bated breath. He kicks. He scores! The undefeated 2s march on. The future looks bright. Final score 22-23.
MOM: Stuart Macdonald, for more turnovers than any one man should get.
DOD: William Nicolson, because there is no justice in this world
Special mentions for all the players making their debut, all of which slotted into the 2s structure seamlessly, and stood their own in a very physical game - particularly Tom Powell who ran the attack well and Aiden Howell who’s strong running caused problems for the Thatcham defence.
[b]Match report - William Nicolson
Updated 20:41 - 16 Sep 2018 by Ron Macdonald