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Old Otliensians vs Bramley Phoenix

 Bramley 2ndxv 001

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From past experience, ‘Ensians knew that an away game against a Modernians side strengthened by students was a formidable task. The visitors were fortunate to have experienced fly half Neil Barlow available and , with veteran scrum half Peter Tempest on the injured list, young number two understudy Tim Swann was given a chance with a third scrum-half, Peter Gilson taking on the role of flanker as a fallback.

Playing with the wind and slope, Otliensians quickly established a territorial advantage with the front row of Lee Paley, Andy Rockett and Ray Drake having the edge on their opponents and providing clean ball for their half backs. Several promising attacks were thwarted by sound tackling from the home side, but on 15 minutes, Tim Swann used his pace to outwit the defence and score a fine try half way out which Barlow converted. ‘Ensians continued to press with centres Hugh Gumbs and Graham Bentley causing big problems for the home defence with penetrating runs. From a ruck in the home 22, quick ball was moved along to Bentley who cut through for the second try to take the score to 14 – 0 to the visitors on 25 minutes.

Mods were not outfaced by the score line and they mounted several promising attacks though their lively young backs. Wingers Steve Lofthouse and Liam Copping were called on to make important tackles and full back Sean Flesher was always on hand to tidy up. Gaining balls against the head in the scrums gave ‘Ensians plenty of opportunities to run the ball and both forwards and backs combined well to set up a ruck 20 yards out. A blindside break by Swann saw him jink past three defenders to score his second try and the conversion by Barlow took the score to 19 – 0 on 30 minutes. Despite this setback, Modernians were still very much in the game and their speedy half backs and inside centre made several serious inroads into ‘Ensians territory. The back row of Tom O’Donnell, Alan Garnett and Peter Gilson had their work cut out to keep the line clear until half time.

After the break new winger Ben Harlow, centre Simon Coxon and lock Robin Devereaux replaced Lofthouse, Gumbs and Derek Mott. With the wind and the slope, it was now Mods turn to launch a series of attacks and determined defence was called on from the visitors for a prolonged period before the home lock crashed through in the corner on 47 minutes. The fine conversion made the score 19 – 7 to the visitors, but, with the elements in their favour, Modernians could now scent victory and they set about the visitors with renewed vigour. ‘Ensians forwards rose to the occasion and, by keeping the ball tight, they were able to to control the situation with a series of drives involving locks Mark Copping and Devereaux and hooker Rockett. This took the steam out of Modernians attacking plans and the initiative slipped away from them. From a scrum in the home 22, Neil Barlow side-stepped his way through the defence to score half way out and his conversion lifted the score to a more comfortable 24 – 7 in favour of the visitors on 54 minutes.

Mods were far from finished, but they had no answer to the foraging and driving by Andy Rockett, Mark Copping and Ray Drake. The visiting backs through Bentley, Coxon and Barlow shored up the mid-field and the ‘Ensians pack was generally able to control events. On 70 minutes, Barlow converted a penalty to make the game safe at 27 – 7, but for the last ten minutes, the home side continued to attack and only strong defence prevented a further score. For Old Modernians, former ‘Ensian journeyman Jock McIlwraith tried hard at hooker, but his repeated misdemeanours and skirmishes with the referee may have made Mods have doubts about where his loyalties lay. Newcomer Ben Harlow made a lively and encouraging debut on the wing for the visitors.

This was an entertaining game played in an excellent spirit and it went ‘Ensians’ way through a sound performance by the pack, solid defence and the ability to control the game in the second half against the elements.