UCS Old Boys captain is frustrated by failure to stay in front

UCS fly-half Tom Bamford (right) scored 13 points against London Nigerian but ended up on the losing

UCS fly-half Tom Bamford (right) scored 13 points against London Nigerian but ended up on the losing side. Pic: Nick Cook/UCS Old Boys RFC - Credit: Archant

UCS allowed a 15-point half-time lead to slip through their fingers en route to a disappointing 27-18 home defeat against London Nigerian in London North-West Division Two.

Dom Baron and Tom Bamford both scored tries in the first half, with Bamford kicking an additional eight points as the hosts took an 18-3 advantage into the interval.

However, they did not score in the second period and their visitors racked up 24 points without reply to inflict the Old Boys’ third defeat in a row at the start of the campaign.

UCS captain James Boyde said: “It really was a game of two halves. We were very dominant in the first 40-minute period but really let things slip after that.

“We will make a concerted effort to improve our defence at training and the boys will be itching to set the record straight at the weekend.”

UCS welcomed a large crowd to its annual Ladies’ Day in what started as a very physical encounter.

The home side immediately asserted their dominance with a series of pick-and-goes from the forward pack and sensible kicking from the half-backs, which saw London Nigerian pinned back in their own 22.

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This was complemented by some strong interplay by the back line and inside centre Dan Sleath, in particular, made headway in the midfield with two solid runs in the opening exchanges.

The Old Boys’ efforts were duly rewarded when prop Christian Henk carried the ball strongly to the London Nigerian line and, following some patient build-up, outside centre Baron capped off a great team try by touching down in the corner.

Although UCS continued to enjoy both a healthy amount of possession and dominant field position, ill-discipline was evident from both sides, resulting in a somewhat fractured game that saw UCS fly-half Bamford and his counterpart trading penalties.

A moment of brilliance came on the 20-minute mark when number eight Tom McKelvey picked up from the base of a forceful midfield scrum, broke blind and fed winger Will McWhiter, who made an electric break.

At first instance, it appeared that McWhiter had gone all the way, only for the touch judge to rule that he had marginally stepped out of play.

Yet the disappointment of this disallowed try was short-lived when, five minutes later, a loose London Nigerian pass saw Bamford hack the ball downfield and, with a turn of pace, touch down underneath the posts before converting himself.

The first half ended with the Old Boys soaking up a prolonged period of pressure, but the second-row combination of James May and Boyde both made a number of crunching tackles around the fringe, and flanker Martin Campodonico’s terrier-like attitude at the breakdown resulted in successive turnovers.

Despite such resolute defence, which saw the side maintain their commanding lead until half-time, UCS were perhaps overzealous in their efforts – both McWhiter and Henk received yellow cards for repeat infringements in the ruck.

London Nigerian began the second half with renewed vigour and adopted a much tighter game plan, which was well marshalled by their tenacious and vociferous scrum-half.

This new approach paid dividends as a forceful rolling maul from a line-out took the Nigerians upfield - they gained their first try of the day when their inside centre crashed over the line.

With the wind behind them, UCS again held their visitors in their own 22 with some choice tactical kicking and strong counter-running by full-back Dan Hastings.

However, the hosts were unable to break the gain line with the ease they had managed in the first half and any dominance was short-lived as a succession of penalties and players falling off tackles saw London Nigerian make headway up the field.

They capitalised on this control, and two tight-five forwards scored converted tries near the UCS posts, while their fly-half also slotted a penalty kick to give the Old Boys’ guests a 27-18 advantage.

The home side composed themselves well in the closing 10 minutes and edged towards the London Nigerian line with strong carrying, particularly from flanker Damir Jovanovic.

Yet the decision to keep the ball tight when within inches of the try-line rather than exploiting an overlap out wide eventually meant possession was squandered.

The game ended with UCS making an impressive win against the head in a scrum – but by this time it was too little too late.

UCS Old Boys: Ahmed Ghanem, James Rafferty (David Myers), Christian Henk, James Boyde, James May, Damir Jovanovic, Martin Campodonico, Tom McKelyer (Mert Zabci), David O’Dwyer, Tom Bamford, Tom Loughlan (Matt Jacobs), Dan Sleath, Dominic Baron, Will McWhiter, Dan Hastings.