Avon take bragging rights against Oldfield
By Steve Bird
Avon started this entertaining local derby two places behind Oldfield but the positions were reversed after they secured a thrilling 28-27 win at their Shaft Road stronghold.
Avon very much had the better of the first half when their pack controlled the ball and the tempo of the game, with skipper scott book ruling the line out to provide an ample supply of ball.
The visitors were clinical and patient every time they got near the Oldfield line and thought they had opened the scoring when Alex Gapper broke blind to touchdown after 8 mins, only to be called back for a foot in touch. They did not have to wait long however as a catch and drive from a line out saw Xander Davis power over for their first try. Ben Hurd added a second try shortly afterwards and, with Johnny Batchelor sloting a penalty as well as an earlier conversion, Avon looked comfortable going into half time with a 15 nil lead.
During the first half, the pacy Oldfield back 3 had always looked dangerous and solid defence from Avon had managed to quell their attacks but the introduction of Sean Lilley from the Oldfield bench changed the dynamics. His excellent distribution skills started to find gaps and soon after the restart, he put his winger away for a classy first try.
Avon almost hit back straight away when winger Dan Griffin broke from his own half but was taken out off the ball following a kick ahead. This resulted in an Oldfield yellow card whilst Batchelor slotted the points from the penalty awarded.
To their credit, 14 man Oldfield kept coming and a gem of a short pop pass from Lilley split the visitors defence for a try under the posts. The game by now had formed a familiar pattern with Oldfield trying to get around the outside of the defence and Avon happy to drive at the Oldfield midfield. With Tom Boreham and Zak Harwood making the hard yards, the visitors set up another good attacking position and Ben Hurd drove over for his second score to extend their lead. Batchelor added the conversion to bring up his 100 points for the season.
The topsy-turvy fortunes continued as Oldfield again hit back with a try, only for Avon to stretch away again when Davis forced his way over again for his second try. Batchelor hit the post with the conversion but the 11 point lead should have been enough to allow Avon to close the game out with 5 minutes remaining. In fact, they should have extended their lead still further having returned to the Oldfield line almost straight from the kick off but made probably their only mistake in the red zone all afternoon by conceding a penalty with the line at their mercy.
The gutsy Oldfield side were never going to succumb quietly though and full back Conrad Braithwaite somehow wriggled out of a double tackle to sprint away to score in the corner to make it a 6 point game. With the clock deep into injury time, the home side found space on the left and touched down their final try in the corner to leave them a single point adrift.
The conversion would have given Oldfield the lead for the first time but it faded away and Avon saw out a frantic last minute to just edge the result in a fantastic advert for local rugby. This moves Avon up to 4th in Somerset Premier.
A 12 man Avon 2nds performed with great spirit against a full strength Old Culverhaysians and not surprisingly suffered a heavy defeat but were disappointed that Old Cs disregarded the Merit Table terms and refused to loan some players despite having an abundance of extra players on the side lines.