Bath 2s 20 – 78 Maroons
Tries: Milnthorpe 3, Pace 3, Hazeldine 3, Johnstone 2, Osborne, Simpson, Grovesnor
Goals: Milnthorpe 11
The Maroon’s term long search for a team that wants it took them west to face the Bath Uni Broncos on a wet 8th week Wednesday afternoon, seeking to complete an undefeated Michaelmas. The suggestion from @UoBRL that their 2s would be ‘out to prove a point’ and their threat of a veritable ‘#stampede’ put the boys in ‘roon firmly on their guard, with old hand Jimmy Yeomans visibly incensed at the realisation that another club had so blatantly stolen the OURLFC model of questionable chat on twitter. With hackles suitably raised, skipper Milnthorpe’s men took to the field determined to earn the right in the opening 20 minutes, deploying a daring new system of 1s and 2s lines that would consistently prove too sophisticated for the baying broncos defence. Early tries from Milnthorpe and Sam Pace set a worrying precedent that only got worse as Pace secured a first half hat-trick, to the general disgust of his teammates, the club, the wider Oxford community and the pantheon of rugby Gods who had clearly taken their eyes off the game, before putting the world to rights in the second half by ensuring Pace didn’t get near the ball.
The unconventional implementation of drinks breaks every 20 minutes ensured the Maroons had plenty of opportunities to reflect on what had gone so right early doors. While complete sets had proven hard to come by, this was largely down to an ability to attack from deep (/refusal to carry into contact) afforded by the selection of wingers at row, prop, centre and indeed wing. Breaks from Simpson, Milnthorpe and Hazeldine came from deep inside the Maroon’s own half, with prop Will Osborne flying the flag for a more traditional style of middle play characterised by running very hard into men standing in front of you. Elsewhere hooker Alex Johnston was orchestrating events from the base of the ruck in a manner smoother even than his own voice, whilst pivot Dan ‘Dan Smith’ Smith contributed his traditional silky touches and a slightly less traditional 40 yard break of the line. As half time rolled around, questions had been asked, lines had been cut, and nice times had been had by all.
The second half saw more of the same incisive attack, although the Maroons did endeavour to mix things up by forgetting how to defend and allowing several loose broncos to gallop home under the posts. Deciding that the best way to stop conceding was to keep scoring straight from kick-off, this became the focus as the half wore on, with wingers Seb Talbot and Joseph Grovesnor evidently itching to get in on the action after a first half in which the ball never had cause to travel wider than the hands of our marauding second rows. Aside from further meat pies for Hazeldine, Osborne and Johnston, the later stages of the game afforded a few opportunities for trial and error that brought into question whether the right truly had been earned. These included Dan ‘Dan Smith’ Smith sniping blind alone from the base of the scrum (and falling out with Sam Pace), Milnthorpe attempting an offload in his own 22 (and falling out with Sam Pace) and Johnston booting the ball straight over the dead-ball line and into some nearby trees (and loudly falling out with himself). Concluding that anything more than 1s, 2s and scoots are frankly unnecessary ornaments to what is after all a beautifully simple game, the Maroons saw out the year by returning to these old favourites, passing the now customary 70-point mark with 10 minutes to spare. Sadly the final away day of 2018 could not be properly celebrated with a trip to Toby Carvery, as the club had already made reservations to dine in hell for the evening. Nonetheless, the team drove home to Oxford reflecting on a very successful term, and looking forward to a Hilary that promises the possibilities of tougher tests in the league, of Varsity glory, and of maybe finding a team that wants it.