7:40am Tuesday 27th May 2014
By Ed Mezzetti
OXFORDSHIRE’S Twickenham dream was well and truly crushed by a 52-12 semi-final defeat to holders Surrey at Grove.
The hosts needed to be on top of their game to stand any chance of competing against the favourites, but found themselves 26-0 down after 20 minutes.
Surrey’s pace and power, plus their set-piece domination, made for a formidable combination and Oxon were often living off scraps.
Trailing 40-7 at half-time, Oxfordshire played better in the second period, but the damage had been done.
Surrey, whose squad included 14 players from National 3 London champions Dorking, spent the opening ten minutes inside Oxon’s half and it was no surprise when the opening try came.
Some dominant scrummaging saw referee Claire Hodnett award a penalty try as Oxon illegally halted a pushover effort.
Fly half Neil Hallett converted and the former Esher man showed superb handling skills to scoop up a loose ball and score try No 2 three minutes later.
Hallett converted this and the third try on 16 minutes, a slick counter attack finished on the right by No 8 Ian White.
Oxon were reeling and shipped another score as Cyprus international wing Fidias Efthymiou ran a great line off full back Matt Betty to touch down.
The hosts brought on scrum half Joe Chilvers, who had an instant impact, dummying his way through for their opening try after a powerful carry from prop Pete Boulton.
Fly half Zac Norris converted, but the Surrey tries kept coming.
Hallett’s flat pass gave wing James Faatuata an easy finish on the left, then the same player benefitted from a lucky bounce for his second as Betty’s high hick deceived the home defence.
Hallett converted both and Surrey deserved their 40-7 lead.
Oxon had the wind behind them in the second half and came out with real purpose.
Wing Guy Nicholl, improvised well to dive over a pile of bodies and score their second try on 42 minutes.
Replacement Harry Carr almost got away on the right wing, but just put a foot in touch.
Although Surrey responded, the home defence impressed – and that was despite having hooker Steve Dixey sin-binned.
It took a piece of individual skill from Efthymiou, who jinked his way through from a standing start, to score Surrey’s seventh try.
Nicholl contributed much to Oxon’s defensive effort, but his yellow card on 70 minutes triggered more Surrey pressure.
Replacement Harry Watts supported well to bag their eighth try, with centre Matt Noble converting to wrap up the scoring.
Oxfordshire: Day, G Nicholl, Clarke, Bellinger, J Mills, Norris, E Phillips, Eckert (capt), Dixey, Boulton, Brown, Purchase, C Chilvers, Wells, Gratwohl. Reps (all used: Walsh, Haire, J Chilvers, Carr, Clipsham, Spencer, Monks.
Referee: C Hodnett (Newark).
Oxon man-of-the-match: G Nicholl.
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