WITH 12 regular players missing, a much-changed OWs team took to a sodden Croham Manor Road pitch to face Battersea Ironsides, champions-elect of Surrey Two, for the right to progress into the semi-finals of the Surrey Cup.
Both teams showed early intent to play expansive running rugby, with Battersea's hard-running inside-centre asking questions of the OWs midfield from the outset.
Despite OWs gaining the upper hand in the set-piece, with captain Tom Hipsey disrupting the Battersea lineouts and the front row controlling the scrums, it was the Battersea forwards who repeatedly troubled OWs through strong counter-rucking.
More disruptive work in defence led to the opening score for Battersea as a lucky bounce from a brave charge-down resulted in a try and conversion.
A galvanised OWs pack committed more to the breakdown and forced repeated infringements – opportunities that were seized by Butcher, the OWs kicker, as a series of penalties brought them right back into contention.
The balance was tipped as Battersea's midfield broke upfield and managed to offload to the supporting winger for their second score, which gave Battersea the advantage at half-time.
Battersea's rush defence functioned exceptionally well, smothering OWs attacks, which ultimately resulted in the decisive try following a missed clearance.
Late in the game, Battersea had two forwards carded for repeat infringements, but it came too late for OWs.
The final scoreline may have flattered Battersea, but they deserved the win.
OWs look forward to welcoming Battersea to Surrey One next year and avenging this defeat.