Keble College RFC moved onto the 2011 Cuppers semi-final courtesy of a comfortable win in terms of the score. The match was closer than the scoreline suggests though, and the Oriel fans that made the trip to the Uni Parks will be bitterly disappointed that their team was denied even one score. Oriel arguably had the better of the early exchanges, and only a resolute defence was enough to prevent them crossing the try line, following a series of catch and drives at lineouts.
Keble thought they had the first score of the match, a beautiful move culminating in what appeared to be winger John Harkness scoring a try in the corner, only for the referee to rule it out for an alleged foot in touch, despite the protestations of the Keble touch judge.
Justice did not have to wait long to be served, though, with a series of Keble penalties resulting in a caught and driven try for young Tom O’Donnell, who has made a big impression since arriving this year. Keble were able to boast what felt like another new signing in Joel Stockton, whose aversion to training has somewhat hindered his progress in the blue and red jersey, playing only his second game this season. His industry typified the Keble pack’s effort, showing I was perhaps too early to write them off after a backs dominated display versus Christchurch.
Captain Charlie King slotted the extras after the O’Donnell try, and kicked another penalty to make the score 10-0 going into halftime; a fair reflection on the game where Keble found themselves surprised by the intensity and skill with which the Oriel side conducted themselves, along with the extremely vocal support who outnumbered and out-shouted Keble’s comfortably. But after the break the home side were able to call on club stalwart Ross McAdam, who shrugged off a bout of food poisoning to pass a late fitness test, and his experience proved vital in guiding Keble to victory.
The second half was characterised by a both a deteriorating respect for the referee and a decline in the Oriel side; who tired and lost resolve after their repeated failures to breach the Keble line, even with some imposing backs. Winger Dave Edgeley finished a Keble move with some aplomb to give King an easy conversion from under the sticks, and to open up some breathing space between the two sides.
For the third try Keble benefited from some questionable refereeing to allow full-back Oakley Cox to burrow over after a quick tap from close range, King this time failing to add the extras. The referee suddenly found himself under attack from both sides, and did well the keep control of a game which threatened to boil over on more than one occasion, giving penalties against both sides for dissent.
Keble finally broke Oriel’s resolve when, after a period of sustained pressure from Oriel came to nothing. From the ensuing scrum, Lewis Roberts sparked a length of the field move, with Harkness showing pace to finish the move off, and getting his try in the end.
Keble march on to the semi-final, and the Hilary League champions will have a stern test when they face a match up with the defending champions, and the team who humbled Keble in the final last year. Keble will have revenge on their minds when they face University College next week.