On a bright day promising running rugby and tries akin to the All Blacks were on the menu as Datchworth hosted Ladies Day and scrum half Neil Pittaway suggested abandoning the match before it began for a drinking contest in the sun.
Street started the match slowly, conceding a soft try following slow exit play and a five-metre scrum. However, despite playing uphill, this kickstarted Street’s engines and they began to trust moves honed on the training field. A scrum anchored by props Luke Wilson and Connor Osborne led to quality possession and arguably to the try of the season (in all leagues).
Fly-half Ojo (ever smiling) called a devastating move which saw outside centre Rory Barton pick a strong line and fix both centres. Ojo distributed out the back to inside centre Neil Spalding (who smelt a try so decided to play well), put it through the hands of full back Matt Owens and finally to pacey winger Fionn Crowley. Fionn got around his man and offloaded back to Matt, who heard a distant Jonny Horsford (openside flanker) howling for the ball. Jonny took a flat ball and gave a superb over-the-head pass to Neil Spalding who scorched into the corner for a wonderful score which started in Street’s own 22.
The first half continued positively. Strong carries from flanker/lock/winger/soon-to-be-prop Colm Goode and tireless No. 8 Oliver Smalley set up a try for Fionn, along with penalties and conversations from Ojo.
However, Datchworth’s half-time team talk must have been spectacular, as despite playing uphill, they came out firing. Their crowd (perhaps the entire village) was cheering from the clubhouse. Old Street also played their part early in the second half, however, with both Neil Spalding and Fionn picking up second tries.
In the last 20, their strong runners began hitting hard lines, it was only reliable defence from hooker Will Gilgrass, cool-headed physicality from captain and blind-side flanker Harry Marson and the colossal second row Leod Ballentine going beast mode that kept out more than a single try.
Connor took a blow and our “no front-row injuries” policy was broken, fortunately prop Douglas Brown came on to shore up the line-out and challenge hard in the loose. Simultaneously, Jonny managed to tackle everything that moved and saved a certain try with a fearless challenge – whilst Leod managed to tackle Oli (who was in turn tackling a Datchworth winger).
Street held their line for 20 hair-raising minutes, and can be proud of taking home a bonus-point win against a quality opposition.
Harry’s post-match speech was typically sobering, but the bus ride home and the Howl at the Moon was less so.
Five well deserved points have solidified Old Street’s place in the Top Six, with five fixtures remaining and a five game winning streak to uphold.
Old Street Rugby 1XV 30 – 20 Datchworth 1XV