West Leeds stand between Oundle and a day at Twickenham

Oundle beat Ledbury in the final of the Midlands Senior Vase to earn their date with West Leeds this weekend
Oundle beat Ledbury in the final of the Midlands Senior Vase to earn their date with West Leeds this weekend

‘There’s no pressure - just get us to Twickenham’.

That is the simple requirement facing Peter Croot and his Oundle players this weekend when they face West Leeds in the RFU Senior Vase semi-final.

Occupation Road should see a big crowd and a great game of rugby as two in-form sides clash with an appearance at rugby’s headquarters the not-insignificant prize on offer.

Oundle have home advantage and will be confident of continuing the fine form which has already seen them secure the Midlands Three East (South) title and collect the Midlands Senior Vase crown with a 61-33 victory over Ledbury a fortnight ago.

However, the visitors arrive with their own imperious record to defend.

They are unbeaten in the league having won 20 of their 23 games, sit 14 points clear at the top of Yorkshire Division Two - although second-placed Keightley have two games in hand - and average over 41 points per match.

They also have experience of being at this stage before. West Leeds were finalists in the competition last year and will undoubtedly be inspired to make amends for their 20-10 loss to Bromley.

It has all the makings of an excellent afternoon of rugby.

“That’s what I’m hoping for,” Croot said. “I don’t want to tempt fate but I think the winners of the whole competition will probably come from this semi-final.

“I really think it will be a cracking game.

“They are a very strong side. They got to Twickenham last year, they’re top of their league and they’re scoring tries for fun by the look of things.

“But then we are a good team, too. We are confident in our ability and I think the sides are evenly matched.

“It will be all down to the performance on the day.

“I don’t want to talk in cliches, but it is all about 80 minutes in which we have to perform.

“If we do, then we have every chance of winning.

“One advantage we do have is being at home.

“Hopefully we will get a big crowd there to support us as that can help.

“We played in front of our vice-presidents last weekend and the message then was ‘you’ve won the league, you’ve the Midlands Vase so, no pressure Pete, just get us to Twickenham!’.”

The fact Oundle have already been so successful this year does, in some ways, lift a bit of the burden from the shoulders of the team.

Not that Croot thinks any of them are suffering from nerves at the prospect of earning a place at headquarters.

“We just don’t seem to get fazed by the bigger games any more,” he explained.

“Last season we would probably have suffered a bit, but now there is a certain maturity in the side.

“We haven’t had a chance to see West Leeds play. Because our last match was delayed it has all been a bit of a rush.

“But if we had there might have been a massive temptation to change everything to cope with the opposition.

“As it is, we’ve decided to just stick with what we’ve been doing and what has worked so well.

“And, to be honest, it’s hard for the players not to do that anyway.

“They are playing so well it is just a case of going out and doing it now.

“We had a long selection meeting and we feel we have enough power coming off the bench to change things if we need to.

“Whatever happens the pressure is off in a way.

“If you asked me what I wanted at the start of the season, I would have taken what he have achieved there and then.

“It is great to have the trophies but it is also pleasing to see the team come together and grow.

“One of the really good things is that of the 22 we had in our squad last weekend, 17 had played their mini-junior rugby at Oundle.

“Having that connect between juniors and seniors is great for the club.”

Oundle have a full strength squad to select from and will be boosted by their 48-20 success over Northampton BBOB last weekend - their 17th win in 19 league matches.