Blues Share Points with Ironmen
Oxford ended their recent run of defeats, but a last minute penalty from the visitors meant that the run ended with a draw rather than victory.
Surprisingly, this was the first visit to Abingdon by the South Wales Ironmen, and it will also be their last – next season they will be the West Wales Raiders. Both sides would have approached this game believing that it was a possible win.
The opening exchanges were extremely scrappy, with regular handling errors from both sides. Some coaches have recently criticised the quality – in wet conditions – of the contractually supplied balls, but a completely dry Tilsley Park means that was definitely not the reason here.
Once play had settled down, Oxford were the first to make their mark by running the ball on the sixth tackle. A long pass from Scott Fleming found Marcus Brooker. He slipped the ball to Harrison Brough who scored in the corner.
But South Wales hit back quickly, with two tries both coming from lost possession. Firstly, Oxford fumbled a kick and in the following set Kade Breen bundled over the line.
Bizarrely, with the score at 6-4 and only 16 minutes on the clock, South Wales then attempted a drop goal. It was nowhere close to a score, and possibly the player merely saw no other sensible options on the last tackle.
The second try by the visitors started with Oxford running out of defence after retrieving a kick. This time the ball was stripped in a one-on-one tackle, and suddenly the South Wales kick-chase looked more like a break. With a multiple overlap they were able to get the ball to Shaun Tennant, who walked over the line. Different hairstyle but same result and the score was now 12-4.
It appeared that a comeback would be more difficult when Jordan Siddons saw a yellow card for a high tackle, possibly saved from a red only because his opponent was already going down. That was to be the last point of the match when Oxford had 13 men on the pitch, because Siddons’ return 10 minutes later coincided with a red card for Tommy Newbould.
However, playing with 12 men had not initially appeared a problem. Whilst Siddons was off, Newbould had scored for Oxford, scampering over near the corner despite the attention of four defenders. Harvey Burnett converted in what would be Oxford’s only successful kick of the day. Then after Oxford had forced a goal-line drop-out with a tackle in the in-goal area, Bradley Moules went over from acting half-back. That was 10 unanswered points for the 12 men of Oxford.
Newbould’s red card followed the end of another Oxford attack. This time South Wales were bringing the ball out after fielding a kick, but Newbould caught their player high and the touch judge ran on to signal an offence. There was then a further altercation, and the touch judge had to try to hold his flag even higher. The second offence was deemed sufficiently violent to be worth a red.
The rest of the half passed without incident and the second half went over 20 minutes before the next score. However, South Wales were gradually ramping up the pressure. Jordan Gill forced an error from the left winger as he had looked certain to go over to score, and then the visitors knocked on over the line after running the ball on the sixth tackle. They also forced a goal-line drop-out after a grubber kick hit the posts and bounced unkindly for the Oxford defence.
South Wales manged finally to draw level when Ben Jones kicked a penalty goal in front of the posts. Two minutes later Oxford won a scrum after yet another knock-on. Although the ball came out cleanly and was taken 20 metres downfield, some of those in the scrum failed to disengage and a fight broke out. The referee brought play back and sent one player from each side to the sin-bin, although it seems doubtful that any of the officials had really seen what happened in back play. Oxford lost prop Fran Welsh and South Wales their hooker Connor Farrer.
So now it was 12 versus 11, and with a lot of extra space on the field South Wales were very lucky to retrieve the ball after a sixth-tackle kick hit an Oxford player and was judged to have been played at. They took full advantage, with Connor Parker scoring a try converted by Jones.
But Oxford came straight back. A short spell of pressure led up to a good move from Burnett and Dan Hindmarsh. Hindmarsh’s drive into right centre opened the way up for a pass to Jordan Gill who dived in the corner.
And a few minutes later, Gill was in again to give Oxford a late lead. Oxford moved the ball to the left, pulling the defence in one direction and then Lee Land switched play to put a kick over to the right wing, where Gill rose highest to claim the ball and bundle over the line to score. I had intended to write that Gill leapt like a salmon, but I see that the club’s official Twitter feed beat me to it. Gill took this touchline conversion himself, but it was never close and so Oxford’s lead was a precarious 2 points.
That proved not to be enough as in the last minute South Wales looked to break and only a desperate tackle stopped them creating a good chance for a try. However, the referee awarded a penalty in a kickable position and Jones made no mistake.
In what was the final play of the game, South Wales fumbled the kick-off and Oxford recovered it only 15 metres out. But no-one was able to find enough space to create a chance as the hooter went.
This match was perhaps not of the highest quality, but certainly an entertaining afternoon, with the lead changing hands numerous times and the result in doubt until the last seconds. Oxford had outscored their opponents by five tries to three, but with all the tries coming in the corners had only converted one successfully.
Oxford – 1 James Cryer, 5 Jordan Gill, 22 Marcus Brooker, 4 Tommy Newbould, 2 Harrison Brough, 6 Brad Moules, 7 Dan Fleming, 10 Jonny Payne, 9 Casey Canterbury, 8 Lee Land, 11 Jordan Siddons, 12 Dan Hindmarsh, 13 Harvey Burnett
Interchanges: 24 Stuart Biscomb 15 Jake Joynt, 25 Fran Welsh, 14 Matt Davies
Tries: Harrison Brough (9), Tommy Newbould (26), Brad Moules (31), Jordan Gill (72), Jordan Gill (76)
Goals: Harvey Burnett (1 from 4), Jordan Gill (0 from 1)
South Wales – 27 Jack Uren, 23 Sam Hodge, 28 Morgan Jefferies, 17 Shaun Tennant, 5 Tom Parks, 6 Andy Gay, 22 Ben Jones, 18 Morgan Evans, 9 Connor Farrer, 24 Connor Parker, 4 Christiaan Roets, 10 Kade Breen, 15 Archie Snook
Interchanges: 16 Macauley Harris, 19 Jamie l’Anson, 13 Barrie Phillips, 26 Henry Davies
Tries: Kade Breen (16), Shaun Tennant (21), Connor Parker (66)
Penalty Goals: Ben Jones (64), Ben Jones (80)
Other Goals: Ben Jones (3 from 3)
Half-time – Oxford 14 South Wales 12
Full-time – Oxford 22 South Wales 22
Scoring sequence – 4-0, 4-6, 4-12, 10-12, 14-12, 14-14, 14-20, 18-20, 22-20, 22-22
Referee – Matt Rossleigh
Sin-bin – Jordan Siddons (Oxford) – 24 minutes, Fran Welsh (Oxford) – 66 minutes, Connor Farrer (South Wales) – 66 minutes
Sent off – Tommy Newbould (Oxford) – 34 minutes
Penalties – Oxford 7 South Wales 6