Heartbreak for Crows as they lose during the final play of the match
By Lee Gilbert
A missed opportunity for Royston as they dominated for long periods and scored some good tries but couldn't quite secure what would've been a much needed victory.
Royston welcomed OMTs to the Heath this Saturday buoyed by their bonus point win over Finchley the week before and looking to continue the momentum further into 2019. After losing a high scoring match away to OMTs earlier in the season, the Crows were looking to up their game and gain revenge.
The match started very well for the Crows as they pinned OMTs back in their own half for large periods of time, using their dominant pack to secure set piece ball and gather forward momentum. An easily kickable penalty was spurned by Captain Jon Brain in favour of an attacking line-out 5m from the OMT line, and this was instantly rewarded with a push over try for returning prop Damo Fouracres, converted by winger Will Dacey for a 7-0 lead after just five minutes. Royston continued to build pressure wherever possible but OMTs slowly began to exert their wide game on proceedings, attempting to unleash their quick outside backs at every opportunity. Only excellent Royston cover defence prevented their full back scoring in the corner and the Crows got back on the front foot once more. A succession of hard carries got Royston to within 5m of the OMT line, and an illegal tackle on Fouracres looked to have provided Royston with an easily kickable three points at the very least, seven if the overlap had been converted on the right-hand side but retaliation for the tackle immediately turned over the penalty and the opportunity was lost. OMTs welcomed this reprieve with open arms and started to make in-roads into the Royston defence, with scrum half Adam Smith using his face on one occasion to halt an attack that ultimately resulted in an injury and a trip to A&E to get patched up, Max Ayliffe on in his place. Nevertheless, the pressure eventually told as the OMT outside-half was given far too much time on the ball to make a break down the blindside of the pitch before releasing the supporting winger to score in the corner, conversion missed, and lead reduced to 7-5 after twenty minutes. Shaken but undeterred, Royston began to fight back once more. Several hard carries by the Royston pack coupled with the occasional backs break gave Royston good ball in the OMTs 22. From here number eight Matthew Muirhead ran an excellent line off Ayliffe and managed to crash over near the posts for his third try in two games, easily converted once more by Dacey for a 14-5 lead after thirty minutes. As the half neared it’s close, Royston looked the more likely team to score next, but a string of good outside breaks by the OMT backs got them into Royston territory. The Crows looked to have weathered the storm when they were awarded a scrum 5m off their own line, but OMT managed to turn the ball over and score once again just on half-time, with the try converted to reduce the deficit to 14-12.
At half-time the Crows attempted to regroup knowing the game was more than winnable if they sorted their defence out and played their own game. Returning flanker Lee Gilbert was introduced at half-time for injured winger Dacey, with original flanker Max Finney moving to the wing to cover, and the Crows began the 2nd half now playing into the constant Heath wind.
From the re-start, OMTs were able to secure good ball and go through the phases as they worked their way up the pitch. This eventually resulted in a break down the blindside where Royston were caught short, with the supporting OMT runners linking well for a score near the posts, once again converted to take them into the lead for the first time. Royston were able to turn over the ball from the resulting kick-off, but excellent OMTs defence managed to repel the Royston hordes and clear their lines successfully. Once again, they made their way into the Royston half and when a needless penalty had been given away for not staying on their feet at the ruck, OMTs extended their lead to more than two scores with the resulting penalty, the scoreboard now 22-14 in their favour. Royston continued to make in-roads into the OMT defence at every opportunity, and on one such occasion only an illegal tip tackle on winger Dan Ritsema prevented Royston from potentially scoring out wide. The OMT player was sin-binned for the offence, but considering Ritsema landed directly on his neck, this should’ve been a clear red card offence. Nonetheless, Royston attempted to use their numerical advantage where possible, and were rewarded when a succession of forward drives was eventually finished off near the posts by second row Zac Conley, inside centre Will Cottrell successfully converting the try to reduce OMTs lead to one point with fifteen minutes to play. Royston continued to dictate most of the play as they searched for a possible winning score, and they secured this with the try of the day. A loose kick into the Royston 22 was well fielded by Finney who quickly took the resulting mark to set fullback Euan Rees free down the left-hand side of the field. Quick hands by the Royston backs put Ritsema in further space down the left, and when he was eventually brought down, the ball was quickly recycled to the right where Muirhead was able to crash through the OTM defensive line into their own 22. Further quick ball eventually made its way to outside-half Rob Turner who crashed over with an OMT defender in close company. Unfortunately, Cottrell couldn’t convert the difficult conversion and Royston led by just four points with three minutes remaining, and this is where their day unfolded in heart-breaking style. The kick-off was spilt immediately and OMT secured good ball in the Royston half, which was made even better when Conley was yellow carded for tackling an OMT player when not 10m from a quick tap penalty. OMT continued to advance on the Royston line, and despairing defence wasn’t enough as they creeped over in the corner with time expired to secure a 27-26 win with the last play of the game.
Heartbreak for the Crows, but on a slightly positive note they managed to secure another two points for their survival bid, and with other results going their way this weekend, are now ten points above the relegation place in London 3NW. The next game could almost certainly define their season as they face basement team Verulamians away on the 26th of January, with a win there potentially putting them fifteen points away from danger with just seven games left to play thereafter.