Keynsham 18 - 17 Okehampton
Keynsham welcomed a large contingent of supporters to the Crown Field for the mid table clash in the South West 1 league game. They and the home spectators were given a fast, exciting game which failed to reach its promise in terms of quality, due to both sides making too many errors.
Keynsham took the lead after 5 minutes from a penalty by Sam Challenger following a high tackle offence. A missed touch kick from a defensive penalty saw Keynsham punished as Okehampton ran the ball back with speed and good off-loading and made fully 60 metres; but a counter-attack led by hooker Jack Evans regained much of the distance lost.
On 17 minutes Okehampton had a simple penalty near the sticks for an off-side offence but their kicker, Richie Friend failed to convert it. Keynsham then had a period on the attack and one passage of play saw them go through 12 phases before they knocked on and the Okehampton line was cleared. At 30 mins Okehampton 2 most dangerous backs, centre Rhys Palmer and full back Kieran Lee, linked up for Lee to dot down and excellent try for the visitors; Friend narrowly missed the conversion to leave the score at 3-5. Joe Davis was replaced by debutant Ciaran Chester who took over in the centre with Challenger moving to stand-off. 3 minutes from the half time whistle strong running by Palmer in the centre, assisted it must be said by some poor tackling, led to a try wide out on the left by the aforementioned Palmer; conversion wide of the mark. 3-10. Okehampton had a further opportunity to edge further in front before half time but another easy penalty was missed.
So, a half time score of 3-10 must have made good reading for the home side following a scrappy 1st half where the Keynsham scrum was under pressure unusually, Jack Weston often having to clean up a scrum moving backwards. The line out too, was poor on long throws and there’s work to be done in that area. The much-vaunted defence was also creaking particularly in the midfield areas although it was still pretty awesome at close quarters to our own line. So there was work to be done in the second half.
There was a notable change of tactic from the home side on the re-start with kicks being put in behind the defensive line. After just 2 minutes, from one such kick by scrum half John Pearce, Keynsham won a 5-metre line out and Callum Fennell scored from a well set up driving maul. The conversion was missed, 8-10. Still using the kicking tactic Keynsham were soon again in an attacking position and were able to disrupt the Okehampton scrum causing the ball to bobble about, first to it was Brad Newton who picked up, stepped inside and fed Jack Weston who dived over near the posts, Challenger converted, 15-10.
Okehampton replied when no 8, Martin Harrison-Brown broke several tackles in the midfield, feeding to that man Palmer, who again showed his prowess with a try, Friend converting this one, 15-17. Ryan Harding took over as prop from Matt Coghlan at this point. With time ticking away an off-side decision at a ruck gave Challenger another shot at goal, gratefully accepted – 18-17; nail-biting stuff. Okehampton fought right back and 1 very threatening attack was snuffed out by a superb tackle from Gaz Bradnock. With 5 minutes to go Okehampton made some final changes to personnel and camped within 10 metres of the line. A combination of stout defence and gritty scrummaging kept the visitors out. They did earn a penalty at the end of this spell but an easy kick was again missed, this time by replacement stand-off Luke Simmons.
The result of the game was that Okehampton lost by 1 point, not that Keynsham won by 1 point. They were badly damaged, as Keynsham have been in the past, by their kicker not having his kicking boots on. Not a classic game but certainly enjoyable, and it is worth mentioning two Keynsham players who have not been named in the match detail, home debutant George Warren on the wing and full-back Sam Hedges. The play of both these two must have pleased the coaching staff, who obviously were delighted that the whole squad had dug in an manufactured a 4 point league win.