Old Streetonians 1st XV travelled to struggling Hitchin as the season rolled into March. It was The Onions’ first outing in three weeks owing to a rest weekend and weather disruptions, and they were greeted by a (mostly) dry day and a substantial home crowd to set up a perfect day for rugby.
The game started at a frantic pace and although there was plenty of endeavour from the 15 Piggies on the pitch, finesse was lacking at key moments.
We should have scored the first try, as in really should have.
An Eoin ‘Ojo’ Fitzpatrick penalty soon saw centre Conor Fitzgibbon take an interception in broken play and head for the line. As he approached he became more and more relaxed and just as he went to touch the ball down he was hit from behind by a chaser (NOBODY likes a chaser), knocking the ball on and allowing Hitchin to run clear.
However bad it sounds, we can assure you, it was worse.
Things looked no brighter for Old Street when, five minutes later, Hitchin scored after space was made for their left winger. At 5-3 down and 10 minutes in, Old Street finally began to start playing some rugby. Typically powerful midfield carries from lock Geoffroy Audousset and flanker Colm Goode put us in a strong position and the Onions started converting some opportunities.
First to score was hooker Will Gilgrass who darted over from short range following previous efforts from skipper Harry Marson and prop Luke Wilson and then just moments later we led 15-5 following neat hands in the midfield presented winger Perry Baker Rory Barton with a one-on-one against his opposite man.
Needing no second invitation, Rory showed him inside before going round him and scorching clear for another converted score. Number 8 Oli Smalley was next in on the action. Benefiting from an offload from the irrepressible Goode who had supported Barton’s initial break well.
Buoyed on by the introduction of a superstar bench featuring prop Connor Osborne, natural born winger Pip Bhol and (in his own words) the Hobmeister General, Gary Hoban, the final- bonus point clinching- try of the half came through full back Neil Spalding. Again neat midfield interplay between the ex-Old Wesley midfield trio of Ojo, Fitzgibbon and the returning David Potterton gave the 15 space which he exploited to score, despite a late tap tackle.
The second half kicked off with Old Street comfortably in front at 5-27, but it’s fair to say we didn’t have it all our own way. Luke Wilson was yellow carded early on for multiple offences at scrum time and we faced a sustained period of pressure on our line where Hitchin were once held up and once thwarted only by a monstrous hit from winger Fionn Crowley.
Despite this, we escaped and worked our way up field to eventually win a penalty, which Ojo again slotted to settle us down. Moments later we were back in the ascendancy when Potterton put Spalding into space. The 15 just about kept the defenders at bay to get over in the corner for his second, which Ojo expertly converted.
Hitchin did hit back and showed tenacity throughout the match by scoring another try following a midfield mistake as Old Street tried to run from deep.
Service was quickly resumed, and the next try was a thing of beauty which featured a great line from lock Ryan Trudgeon, ably supported by prop Douglas Brown, and a majestic offload from scrum-half Josh Parry, who had an excellent game despite playing out of position.
The end recipient was Rory Barton who once again showed his pace to finish – despite earlier in the match taking a bit of time on the sidelines after an impromptu game of conkers with his opposite man, where heads were used instead of the seed of a horse chestnut tree.
The game was capped and (some) redemption was found by Fitzgibbon who ran an excellent line off of Ojo to this time actually put the ball down under the posts.
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