10:00am Tuesday 3rd September 2013
KINGSTONE PRESS CHAMPIONSHIP ONE
OXFORD booked a play-off place by finishing sixth after a 30-30 draw against London Skolars in their final regular season game at Iffley Road.
Tries came from captain Alex Thompson, Matty Hadden, Kenny Calladine, Oli Johnson, Tommy Connick and Matt Fiander, one converted by Jonny Leather and two by Jimmy Rowland.
Skolars responded with tries from John Paxton, Michael Worrincy, Andy McLean, Dylan Skee and Rob Thomas, Skee converted each time.
The result sets up an intriguing elimination play-off between newboys Hemel Stags and Oxford next week at Pennine Way on Sunday, while London travel to Rochdale for their first bite of play-off action.
A positive result for Oxford seemed a million miles away early on in their final home game of the season.
In the Skolars’ first attack, a sweeping move from right to left ended with Paxton going over and it took Oxford until the 14th minute to finally make the fifth tackle.
Skolars went further ahead when some terrific handling led to Worrincy bursting through the middle.
Sean Morris, became the game’s first casualty when he damaged his thumb in a tackle.
Oxford hit back with captain Thompson somehow managing to get his hand over the line despite some heavy challenges. Leather missed the conversion.
Just after 30 minutes, some sloppy London defending gifted Hadden the easiest of tries, but Leather missed a straightforward two-pointer.
Smokie Junor averted danger when hauling down Fiander after Oxford burst through the London line, but the speedy winger could do nothing to stop Calladine deservedly giving the hosts the lead for the first time.
At 14-12, there was all to play for, but the Skolars collapsed in the opening ten minutes of the second half, conceding two tries.
First, Rowland’s grubber kick wasn’t dealt with by London’s defence and Johnson went over on the right, and then Connick finished off a good break from Fiander shortly after.
The visitors grabbed a vital try on 58 minutes when James Anthony offloaded for McLean to go over.
From the restart, a fracas erupted as players waded into a full-blown fight which ended with the dismissals of Oxford’s Chris Clarke and Skolars’ Olly Purslow, but easily could have resulted in more cards.
London pushed hard to get back into the game and Skee was fortunate when his grubber bounced back off a post into his arms, allowing him to go down and bring the deficit to two.
Rowland then set Fiander free on the left to extend Oxford’s lead. The same player’s missed conversion proved disastrous when Rob Thomas powered over three minutes later to level the scores.
In a frantic finale, Rowland almost sealed it for the hosts, but his drop goal attempt sailed wide seconds before the hooter.
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