After a long trek to the Forest of dean,Okes ran out on another swealtery September Saturday afternoon with the wind in their favour. Unfortunately they have still not solved their slow start problem, conceding early, just as they have done in both their previous matches this season. It indirectly resulted from yet another of Oke's achilles heels, a failure to gather kick offs and restarts effectively. This time Okes did eventually retrieve possession after the initial kick, but their clearance just invited on pressure. Drybrook are well drilled out wide however, and they made Okes defensive hesitancy in the wide channels pay, as their winger crossed in the right corner after barely two minutes.
So once again Okes found themselves an early score behind and with ground to make up. To their credit they began to get the lethargy out of their systems and spent the next ten minutes on the offensive, without creating anything clear cut. Then, as the match reached the fifteen minute mark, a neat grubber from the returning Dan Fogerty established an Oke five meter attacking scrum platform. Okes were to go on to dominate at scrum time, and even at this early juncture had enough grunt to shove the hosts backwards allowing scrum half Richie Friend to burrow his way over on the right of the set piece, but just left of the posts. Okes were now level, but missed the chance to take the lead as Friend's conversion attempt was a pretty ugly affair.
The Okes failed to consolidate their lead, predictably failing to cope with the resultant restart. In an almost carbon copy of their first score, Drybrook retained possession, and after a couple of charges up the middle, spread the ball wide to make the retreating Okes pay again with another try in the same corner. Another conversion was missed and it sat at 10-5 as the first quarter ended. Back and forth it continued as the Okes took their turn again to gain possession and territory once more. Their efforts rewarded with a penalty bang in front on 27 minutes, this time Friend was on target to reduce the deficit to two points. Okes were now creating chances, but handling errors and penalty concessions allowed Drybrook to work their way back upfield. From an attacking lineout the hosts then extended their lead minutes before the interval. Clean ball was driven then spread wide. Oke defended initially effectively, but from a subsequent ruck on the Oke's line, the home number nine sneaked over from short range. This time the conversion was landed, and when the sides turned around the hosts were holding a nine point advantage.
The second half kicked off with the Okes facing the breeze and minus both flanker Dean Abrams and hooker Reece Bartlett, both taking knocks to the head, forcing them to leave the field during the first forty. The home side began brightly and the Okes conceded yet another penalty, allowing a deep kick to touch. A few phases after the resultant lineout, the hosts crossed for their fourth try. A short pass saw the Drybrook twelve cross under the bar for a converted score that left the Okes facing a real uphill task, 24-8 down after 45 minutes.
The Okes never reached anywhere near the levels of intensity and performance of the previous week, however great credit can be taken from the last half an hour, where they dragged themselves back into the match and had their hosts, at times, rattled. As the half elapsed the Okes scrum became increasingly prominent, and with handling and discipline improved , the visitors came back into contention. Firstly on 53 minutes, after being held up over the line, the home side lost one to the bin. Okes called for scrum, and the home side had no answer as the visiting pack drove them backwards over their own line. The referee having no alternative but to award a penalty try. Okes were now sniffing a comeback.
Tot for tat it continued as after a spell of play in midfield, the Okes were forced to concede another penalty. The home ten now had his kicking boots on and slotted it to take the lead back to twelve points; 27-15 with just over fifteen minutes remaining. Okes responded, a superb break from deep by Brandon Horn causing panic in the home ranks , unfortunately he ran out of support and the chance was gone. Oke confidence was growing though, and as the match entered the last ten minutes the maroon and ambers struck again. Okes pounded the home line but couldn't cross it. Scrum time soon arrived though and after an initial failed effort, the Okes regrouped and once more the home front row had no answer as the Okes drove over, allowing Tom McGrattan to demonstrate excellent control at the base to ground the Okes third try. Richie Friend wa successful with the extras and it was game on again at 27-22. The Okes then immediately shot themselves in the foot again at restart time, a penalty being the result. Once more the hosts potted it as the Okes paid the price, making it an eight point ball game once more.
Time was running out but Okes wouldn't admit defeat. They attacked again and came close before a turnover frustrated them whilst deep in the home twenty two. Then with a minute remaining another penalty offence left the Okes a tricky decision, risk it and go for the fourth and bonus point try, or slot the kick and take the losing bonus point. They opted for the latter and Friend stood up to the pressure to slot the kick. There was just enough time left for one last restart. The Okes then made one final, costly error. Failing to clear the regathered kick off, they became isolated and a penalty was awarded for holding on. The hosts opted to take the three points, and the kick sailed over as the final whistle blew, robbing the Okes of a much deserved losing bonus point.
So, despite everyone's disappointment at the point lost, there were still positives to take from this defeat. Yet again the Okes demonstrated that they are very competitive at this level, narrowly losing on a pitch where many succumbed last season, and all this knowing they performed nowhere near the levels they are capable of. The home intensity and guile on display against Camborne will need to be in evidence this coming Saturday, when a high flying,title aspiring Exeter University side are the visitors. A ex-players luncheon should ensure plenty of vocal encouragement, please get along to add your decibels, kick off will be 3 PM..