Saints within a whisker of taking league title
Championship One South OA Saints 38 Hove 7 IT WAS on an uncharacteristically warm day, with the spring sun on their backs that the OA Saints came out for their final home match of the season. The team went into this encounter knowing they are so close t
Championship One South
OA Saints 38 Hove 7
IT WAS on an uncharacteristically warm day, with the spring sun on their backs that the OA Saints came out for their final home match of the season.
The team went into this encounter knowing they are so close to wrapping up the league title. Given that the Saints had dispatched of one of their main rivals, by a healthy margin, in their previous game, there was feeling of confidence before kick-off.
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That said, victory for Saints was not looking certain at all in the opening exchanges. There were some frustrating moments as a resolute Hove defence looked like they were primed to spoil the party. Saints showed an eagerness to offload but their enthusiasm was not converted to points and led to some unforced errors in the attempt to put width on the ball. Hove perhaps sensed a whiff of fallibility about their supposedly superior opponents - a lapse of concentration by Saints and the impasse was broken by Hove scoring the first try under the posts after 25 minutes - all the more poignant given that this was the first try by an opposing team against Saints since November last year. Saints, caught napping, realised that a 7-0 deficit was the wake up call needed and they responded well to raise their standard of play. Following some relentless rucking and mauling the forwards repeatedly secured quick ball, giving the backs the opportunity to unleash incisive runs ensuring that before half time, there were four unanswered tries for Saints in quick succession from Megan Williams, Karina Page and a brace for Sarah McKenna.
Even with a comfortable lead at half time, Saints realised that they could not afford to be complacent and would have to keep up the pressure in order to deny the visiting side any chance of a memorable upset. However, as the second half got under way, Hove showed no signs of caving in, and played their part with typically resilient fervour, most notably trying to enforce some pressure on Saints in the scrums.
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Saints' forwards stuck to the game plan and tirelessly worked around the park to provide a good platform for the backs to build on, with clean ball at the lineout and a clinical back row of Geri Thomas, Caroline Rees and Catherine Botterman contesting vigorously at the break down. As such, Hove did not get the chance to play with much of the ball.
Saints lost prop Caroline Pretty to the sin bin who was shortly followed by a Hove player as the pressure tolled in the final quarter. However, neither of these decisions seemed to affect the outcome of the match as Saints eventually managed to put some decisive breathing space between the teams with lots of ground and well secured possession from the forwards allowing final tries from Robyn King and Williams in the corners.
Next week sees OA Saints travel to Cheltenham where a win will put the league championship beyond doubt for the Saints.
Saints: Williams, King, Page, McKenna, Barnes, Openshaw, Cameron, Pretty, Brannon, Fuggles (Chandler 68), Knighton, German, Thomas, Rees, Botterman (Clark 60).