Brookes 10 – 8 Greyhounds FREEZING cold conditions did nothing to deter players on either side from attacking with physicality, but Brookes’ staunch defending denied the Greyhounds a second victory to follow their more assured performance at Iffley just over a month ago.
From kick-off Oxford carried the ball through the forwards, which proved successful when they scored after just five minutes. A solid lineout gave them good ball from which the forwards could apply pressure on their opponents defence and a rolling maul tumbled over the line to put 5 points on the board.
Unlike at the home fixture, Brookes responded quickly to the Greyhounds’ attempt to control the match, and a late tackle on their fly-half put them in a good position. A smoothly executed move saw the ball passed deftly through the backs and put the Brookes full-back in the corner, where he dived over the line to draw his team level.
The ‘hounds pack worked hard to dominate up front, but without first-phase ball the backs struggled to link up, and handling errors prevented them from scoring on a few promising breaks. They were also restricted by very aggressive tackling, and the Brookes’ flanker was sent to the sin bin after a series of over-zealous tackles.
With the score drawn at 5-5, the game was punctuated with penalties as both teams were caught offside, with Oxford’s scrum-half eventually sent off for 10 minutes. But the winger salvaged three points just before half-time, when Brookes were blown up for pulling down a maul, and the ball sailed between the posts to give the visitors the advantage going into the second half.
In an unusual decision, the referee responded to claims against Brookes for foul play in the ruck with a yellow card for the Greyhounds. They then struggled in the scrum and the home side’s flanker burst out to make a break up the left wing and score. In the last quarter, the ‘hounds were unlucky not to score with the ball held-up over the line and a missed penalty, but their inability to convert late possession into chances was testament to the resiliance of the underdogs’ defence.