RUGBY PICTURES: Rugby St Andrews slideshow

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Action from league leaders Oundle’s visit to John Tomalin Way

PICTURES BY MIKE BAKER

Tom Helliwell in action for Rugby St Andrews against leaders Oundle, with Ryan Taylor in support

Tom Helliwell in action for Rugby St Andrews against leaders Oundle, with Ryan Taylor in support

Midlands 3 East (South)

Rugby St Andrews 10

Oundle 28

A sizeable crowd at John Tomalin Way was treated to a high quality game between two enterprising sides, which demonstrated why Oundle are clear favourites for promotion.

Jamie Clynes and Tom Helliwell in the thick of the action, with Dean Hamilton in support

Jamie Clynes and Tom Helliwell in the thick of the action, with Dean Hamilton in support

Territorially, Saints dominated, which was quite surprising considering the clear advantage in size and physique that the visitors enjoyed across the whole team, but their ability to capitalise on fewer opportunities and a healthy dollop of good fortune proved to be decisive.

The effort that the whole team put was immense but, met with an aggressive and streetwise defence, this was not quite enough and the final margin of defeat did scant justice to their endeavours.

Saints received the kick off and quickly carried the ball into Oundle’s 22. The pattern of the game was established in these first minutes. A wave of attacks was repelled. Oundle gained possession and attacked the short side. First up tackles were missed and the visitor’s interpassing took them 75 metres to the line.

Saints went straight back on the offensive and should have levelled but the scoring pass was misdirected.

Scott Randle and Steve Young in Saturday's game with Oundle

Scott Randle and Steve Young in Saturday's game with Oundle

Oundle were confident enough in the abilities of their powerful backs to try and run out of defence but were clearly discomforted by the line speed of their opponents.

The resultant errors kept Saints on the front foot. A penalty attempt failed narrowly before Oundle again attacked from deep.

Two undetected knocks on enabled them to continue the move and touch down for a converted try. Ryan Taylor pulled back three points with a penalty but fortune again favoured Oundle when their full back failed to gather a clearance kick on halfway.

Only one person in the ground failed to spot the knock on. Play moved swiftly into Saints 22 where they were penalised. The simple kick was landed, followed by a monster shot from fully 50 metres that gave Oundle a flattering 18–3 lead.

Oundle’s impressive defence was once again tested from the restart but Saints were disrupted when they lost winger Tom Oglethorpe, moving the influential Matt Waldron from lock to wing.

Before Saints had settled, Oundle struck with a well executed try that could well have demoralised the home side.

Instead they launched a furious assault on Oundle’s line which resulted in the temporary dismissal of the visiting fly half for dangerous play at a driving maul.

Scrum-half Will Headley was then forced off with an injury and Kristen Ennifer moved from the flank to replace him and it was he who crashed through for a try between the sticks after numerous other efforts had been thwarted, literally inches from the line. Ryan Taylor converted and, with Oundle now on the rack, at least a losing bonus point was now in reach.

The visiting full back was isolated in the tackle deep in his 22.

Surrounded by three Saints players and no help within yards he hung on grimly to deny Saints possession and an almost certain score.

Apparently serious consideration was given to the award of a penalty try which would have reduced the margin to just six points with just a couple of minutes remaining but Saints had to settle for a penalty and not even a yellow card for a professional foul in the red zone. The penalty had to be run and, just to rub salt into the wound, Oundle turned over possession and scored their bonus point try in the 81st minute of the game.

Disappointment was etched on the faces of the players as they disconsolately left the field. There is no doubt that the league leaders deserved the victory for their ability to defend and then counter with such efficiency, but it will be the manner and magnitude of the defeat that will rankle.

The team will play worse than this and win games in this topsy turvey league that saw all but two of the top seven teams lose, which means that Saints remain in sixth place.

This week they welcome Stockwood Park, who are now hot on the heels of Long Buckby for the second promotion spot and will be keen to maintain that pressure. Saints lost in Luton despite a late recovery and the recent form of both sides suggests that this will be another close encounter.