In last week’s games, Oxford got off to a slow start, whilst London Skolars lost a lead in the second half. This weekend was very different, with Oxford taking an early lead but losing the match after failing to get a point after the half-time break.
The weather in north London was hot and sunny, and there were frequent breaks in the game as players adjusted to the conditions, no doubt made even more difficult by heat reflecting off the artificial pitch. However, there was also a strong breeze favouring the home team in the first half.
Looking at some positives from this game, Oxford’s full back Kane Riley has clearly been practising his set-piece kicking. Unfortunately, Oxford had more kick-offs than they would have liked, but managed to retain possession after six of them. Three of Riley’s went into touch on the bounce, making the most of the harder 4G pitch. This was clearly a deliberate tactic. Three others saw the ball knocked on or put dead by the defence.
Riley also managed a 100 metre goal-line drop-out. The kick sailed over the last line of defenders, and Skolars eventually restarted play on their own 10 metre line after retrieving the ball in goal. However, Oxford did not really take advantage of this bonus possession from kicks, often failing to complete their own sets.
In fact, both sides made handling errors on their first possession of the day. But Oxford soon gained an advantage when Josh Atkinson burst down the right wing from half-way. He made an inside pass to the supporting hooker Casey Canterbury who scored the try. Harvey Burnett converted for a 6-0 lead. Skolars equalised when their hooker Ben Pointer scampered in from dummy-half, converted by Jy-Mel Coleman.
Oxford regained the lead when Callum Windley pounced on a fumbled grubber kick in the in-goal area, but Pointer scored his second try from dummy half shortly afterwards. Both were successfully converted and once more the scores were level.
Again Oxford scored from a grubber kick after Skolars failed to clear. This time Scott Fleming touched down a stationary ball in the in-goal area after following through his own kick, and again Burnett converted.
In the ten minutes before half-time Oxford had to withstand a lot of pressure. Relentless attacking from Skolars forced two goal-line drop-outs, and they were also held up over the line. But the goal-line stand ended when Sadiq Adebiyi squirmed over for a try. The London Broncos forward played this game for Skolars on dual registration but has previously starred for Oxford as well. Jy-Mel Coleman converted to level the scores at 18 each at the break.
Oxford spent half-time in the shelter of a tree outside the new clubhouse. Apparently the heating in the away dressing room was full on and couldn’t be turned off.
The second half started cagily and fairly even, but on 53 minutes, and for the first time in the game, Skolars took the lead. Oxford lost the ball coming out of defence and it fell straight to Mike Bishay who was able to score near the corner. Although Coleman missed the conversion, he made no mistake with a penalty goal much closer to the posts a few minutes later.
With the score at 24-18 to Skolars, the pivotal spell of the game arrived with just over 10 minutes left. Oxford winger Josh Atkinson pounced on the ball after forcing a Skolars error, and touched down. However, after a pause the referee disallowed the try, the touch judge saying that Atkinson was offside at the play-the-ball. Then on the next set Coleman scored a drop-goal to extend the home team’s lead to seven points.
And Skolars completed the scoring a few minutes before the end, through Callum Bustin, another Broncos player who has previously played on dual registration for Oxford, Coleman again converting.
So after a disappointing second half, the match ended with a 31-18 win for London Skolars.
Oxford’s next game sees Abingdon’s own version of the Magic Weekend, with Newcastle making the long journey south. Kick-off at Tilsley Park is 2pm on Sunday 18 June.
London Skolars – 20 Jake Melling, 2 Sam Nash, 3 Joshua Allison, 4 Lameck Juma, 5 James Hill, 6 Jy-Mel Coleman, 7 Mike Bishay, 25 Michael Sykes, 27 Ben Pointer, 10 Dave Williams, 11 Lamont Bryan, 18 Michael Greenhalgh, 13 Ryan Chester
Interchanges: 14 Billy Driver, 29 Callum Bustin, 28 Sadiq Adebiyi, 19 Erjon Dollapi
Tries: Ben Pointer (8), Ben Pointer (22), Sadiq Adebiyi (37), Mike Bishay (53), Callum Bustin (76)
Penalty Goal: Jy-Mel Coleman (58)
Drop Goal: Jy-Mel Coleman (69)
Other Goals: Jy-Mel Coleman (4 from 5)
Oxford – 1 Kane Riley, 2 Josh Atkinson, 4 Marcus Brooker, 3 Harvey Burnett, 5 Jordan Gill, 6 Callum Windley, 7 Scott Fleming, 8 Jake Joynt, 9 Casey Canterbury, 10 Anthony Cox, 11 Jordan Siddons, 24 Stuart Biscomb 12, 13 Jordan Crowther
Interchanges: 14 Brad Moules, 16 Tom Alexander, 17 Dwaine McRae, 25 Jonny Payne
Tries: Casey Canterbury (2), Callum Windley (13), Scott Fleming (24)
Goals: Harvey Burnett (3 from 3)
Half-time – London Skolars 18 Oxford 18
Full-time – London Skolars 31 Oxford 18
Scoring sequence (home team first) – 0-6, 6-6, 6-12, 12-12, 12-18, 18-18, 22-18, 24-18, 25-18, 31-18
Referee – Matt Rossleigh
Penalties – London Skolars 4 Oxford 7