South West one

Okehampton 37

Midsomer Norton 22

THIS was no ‘Midsomer Murder’ but Okehampton finally killed off their brave visitors in the last 15 minutes.

The Okes eventually emerged with the full five points but never quite hit the heights of their previous two SW one performances.

The hosts began playing downhill with the pitch and weather both perfect, they spread the ball wide right from the off to test the visitors defence in the outside channels. These sides have never met before and the Okes early width seemed to surprise their Somerset based visitors.

On four minutes Oke centre Rhys Palmer made one of many powerful breaks to crack the midfield defensive line. He found winger Lewis Taylor in support and the left winger scorched in for his third try in the last two matches. The conversion went awry. Everything was looking increasingly rosy for the home side when they stretched their lead after only seven minutes. This time the build up was a more patient one, as the Okes’ backs and forwards alike made good ground; eventually the ball was shipped right, where number eight Tom McGrattan was lurking in the outside channels, and he powered over midway out at the school end. Once more the extras were not landed, but at 10-0 so early in the game it looked like this would be a comfortable afternoon for the Okes. It was not to be however, as a combination of a failure by the home side to execute the basics, alongside a sterling effort by the visitors, ensured the game would remain in the balance right until it’s conclusion.

In the 13th minute an Oke clearance kick was charged down, and the visitors capitalised to cross under the bar to leave a simple conversion. This lifted the visitors and after 22 minutes Midsomer Norton missed a penalty chance when Oke came in at the side. Relieved, the home side came again, their backs looking threatening once more. Scrum half Richie Friend took a quick tap, but was obstructed within the specified ten metres and the Norton number nine saw yellow as a result. Oke kicked to the corner from the penalty award and from the resultant lineout, Tom McGrattan was on the spot, as he peeled off to register Oke’s third try. Yet again the conversion was missed.

Despite being a man down, Norton had their best spell of the match in the remains of the half. They had the ball for long periods and breached the home line for the second time when they crossed wide out in the top left hand corner after several phases to make it 15-12 after 33 minutes. The visitors missed another penalty chance after 36 minutes, before drawing level with a more accurate attempt two minutes later. Oke were now on the back foot, and things got worse when flanker Dean Abrams saw yellow after 39 minutes for a tip-tackle. Half time arrived with the score 15-15.

Dan Foggarty came on at outside half as the Okes looked to increase their attacking tempo for the second forty. The half started evenly, the visitors had possession just outside their own 22 after 45 minutes when they attempted a grubber kick ahead. Rhys Palmer was quick to latch onto the loose ball and a kindly bounce saw the talented midfielder regather and power over to restore Okes advantage.

The visitors came back in the 57th minute when their second row galloped through a defensive gap and plough over between the uprights. The easy conversion was landed and Oke found themselves behind for the first time in the match, with a quarter of the contest remaining.

Slowly Oke began to steady the ship as the scrum solidified. Fitness is a strength of this Oke outfit and they grew stronger as the game wore on. Holes began to appear in the Norton defence and Oke nearly broke clear. After 67 minutes Oke were awarded a penalty chance and Kevin Dennis stepped forward to regain the lead for the men in maroon and amber, albeit a narrow one point margin.

The match entered a nervous last ten for the home side. With only a couple of minutes remaining Oke attacked, and as the ball went through the backs towards the clubhouse it arrived in the hands of Kevin Dennis. The outside centre picked the perfect moment to demonstrate his power and class, as he made a classic hand-off, assisted outside break then dived over to seal the win, much to the home supporter’s delight.  Kevin Dennis then pounced on a loose ball to power over to deny the visitors the bonus point that their significant efforts merited. Dennis added the extras himself and shortly afterwards this enthralling match came to its conclusion.

So another home win, and five points in the bag. However, Oke know this was not a classic performance and improvements will be required in many areas.