Tom's treble secures UCS Old Boys' first victory of the season
PUBLISHED: 18:19 20 January 2014 | UPDATED: 18:19 20 January 2014
Tom Loughnan scored a hat-trick as UCS Old Boys won 29-15 away at basement boys London Nigerian, securing their first victory of the season in London North-West Division Two.
UCS have endured a difficult campaign after losing 13 games in a row while also being deducted 10 league points because they accidentally fielded an unregistered player in two matches.
That has left them mired in the bottom two spots, but Loughnan’s treble – which followed earlier tries from Ahmed Gahnem and James Boyde – secured a morale-boosting away win.
The visitors started badly as their kick-off failed to reach the 10-metre line, but their pack won the resulting scrum against the head and Henry Walton picked up from the base and broke through the Nigerians’ line before Gahnem finished the move with the opening score.
The lead was short-lived as the Nigerians took advantage of poor tackling to hit straight back with their own try – but the Old Boys’ pack repeatedly exploited weak fringe defence and a trademark snipe from Boyde resulted in a touchdown under the posts.
The visitors led by seven points at the break with one of the Nigerians’ forwards in the sin bin for repeated infringement at the breakdown – and they started the second half as the stronger side, applying pressure through multiple phases in their opponents’ half.
However, this period of dominance was undone in a flash as an inside ball from fly-half Alex Lowe was anticipated by the Nigerians’ scrum-half, who intercepted the ball and ran in unopposed.
Lowe made amends for his mistake soon after, carving through a rushing defence to create space out wide, and Loughnan strode in to restore his side’s lead.
However, the hosts rallied, winning territory through their powerful forward runners and, when UCS lost David O’Dwyer to the sin-bin for slowing the ball down in the red zone, the Nigerians took full advantage, scoring a try from the resulting penalty and cutting the Old Boys’ lead to four points with half an hour to play.
The next passage of play was going to be crucial, and the home side asserted dominance and quickly set up camp in the UCS half.
But a disciplined 15-man defensive effort eventually forced an error as the ball was knocked on and the visitors’ scrum functioned well again, allowing them to clear their lines.
As with most matches, the 60- minute mark heralded a decided dissipation of structure as fatigue started to set in, and the game became increasingly stretched.
UCS’s Daniel Sleath threw a big pass straight into the ground, but a fortuitous bounce allowed Loughnan to collect the ball, beat his opposite man and go over in the corner.
The Old Boys had a four-try bonus point but they wanted the victory – and they still had to fight for it.
The Nigerians showed great resolve by getting straight back on the front foot, and they would have scored but for a great piece of scramble defence from Tom McAviney and Dom Rollo-Walker.
The hosts continued to send runners through the UCS line and Steward Orr was shown a yellow card for slowing the ball down.
A galvanised Nigerians team had to make up a nine-point deficit in the remaining eight minutes, while UCS had to hold on with 14 men.
Strong tackling from the likes of Damir Jovanovic and James May ensured the scoreboard remained static and, when the ball was finally turned over, UCS were able to break free and give themselves an opportunity to close out the game in the opposition 22.
Eventually, the ball spat out of the back of a seven-man scrum, where O’Dwyer was able to spin a wide pass to Loughnan, who stepped past his opposite man and dived over in the corner to complete his own hat-trick and his side’s triumph.