OLD ELTHAMIANS 18
BY JON EDWARDS AT DOCKHAM ROAD
A dominant second-half performance wasn’t enough to prevent Old Elthamians from slipping to their first defeat in three National League 1 games at high-flying Cinderford last Saturday.
The Old Boys had never lost on two previous visits to Dockham Road and started in confident fashion, opening the scoring after seven minutes when prop Austin Hay was driven over from a lineout in the home 22.
Cinderford replied with a similar effort five minutes later, hooker Joe Mullis forcing his way over from close range after a catch and drive at a lineout.
Elthamians retook the lead on 15 minutes when lock Adam Batt crashed over from a driving maul, only for Cinderford to respond in kind when Mullis powered over for his second try to level the scores.
The turning point of this hard-fought encounter came in the 34th minute when Elthamians were temporarily reduced to 14 men after replacement prop Tom Concu was shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle on Cinderford winger Ed Bogue as he attempted to collect a high ball.
The home side were quick to capitalise on their numerical advantage, opening up a 24-12 half-time lead thanks to two tries from winger Sam Smith and full-back Ed Sheldon, both managing to out-flank an over stretched OEs defence.
It was a hugely disappointing end to what had otherwise been an impressive opening 40 minutes for Elthamians.
To their credit, they fought back strongly after the restart, monopolising possession and territory for the majority of the second period thanks to the work of their industrious pack.
Fly-half Ollie Bryant reduced the deficit to six points with two well-struck penalties but otherwise OEs struggled to penetrate an outstanding Cinderford defence.
Entering a frantic final five minutes, they camped in the home 22, edging closer and closer to the try-line after a succession of forward drives. But they were penalised for coming in at the side by referee Ben Russell and their final chance of snatching a dramatic late victory had gone.
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