Olde has something to shout about
THE OKEHAMPTON captain charged on to the field for the Devon Intermediate Cup final, roaring encouragement to his players.
At the end, Ian Langbridge's team left King George's Field with barely a whimper – silenced by Sam Olde.
It may seem strange to single out a match-winner after his side have notched up a half century for a 34-point margin of victory.
But Olde, the right wing, transformed this final, swinging it firmly in Bideford's favour with two tries in four minutes before half time.
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Then, in the last 20 minutes, he had a hand in two out of three tries before completing his hat-trick.
The second half might have shown Okehampton's bark to be worse than their bite but they bared their teeth in the opening half an hour.
Fast handling moves created tries for outside centre Kevin Dennis and wing Luke Honeychurch as they took a 12-8 lead.
Olly Wickett put Okehampton's woeful kicking game in the shade as he worked some clever angles, while John Mock, captaining Bideford from the second row, carried the ball in typically bullish fashion.
But they needed a spark from the backs. It came in the 39th minute.
Working off a scrum, Nathan Giddy made a decoy run, centre partner Andrew Mackenzie-Shapland slipped a subtle pass to Olde and he sprinted through to score with the flamboyant Sam Slam dive.
Two minutes into stoppage time, Mackenzie-Shapland again showed why his decision to retire last summer was premature as he gobbled up a knock-on and offloaded to Jamie Giddy.
He in turn found Olde who handed off Carl Poynton and scooted over in the right corner. Suddenly, Bideford led 23-12.
"It had been an even match but I knew the space was going to come," said Olde.
"Fair play to the pack, they ground them down.
"The space only opened up for those two tries because Okehampton were under the impression we were going to try to win it through the pack.
"We practise the move for the first try week in, week out and sometimes it comes off, sometimes it doesn't. A couple of times I've been smashed as a result of it.
"But I always say, 'If we run it right in practice we will do it in a game and it will come off'.
"If you believe in it and everyone comes together on it, then it makes it all worthwhile."
Bideford had taken the lead in the third minute after Olde and Josh King chased a probing Wickett kick and forced Matt Dennis, the Okehampton full back, into touch.
Mock caught the lineout throw, Richard Norman drove to the line and Bideford's Matt Dennis, the blind-side flanker, flopped over for his 11th try in nine games.
While Okehampton scored the next two tries, a couple of penalties by Wickett, the fly half, checked their progress.
The first 24 minutes of the second half had little to hold the attention of a crowd of about 400 and an Okehampton comeback looked unlikely.
When Nathan Giddy intercepted a pass to run in under the posts, it seemed impossible.
It was a bitter blow to Okehampton. Their heads dropped, they began to feel the aches and pains and Bideford cashed in with three tries in the next ten minutes.
Prop James O'Sullivan, taking a pass from Olde, stepped inside from the right touchline to beat three tackles and score.
Then, when Olde was brought down close to the line, James Buckland headed a queue of three players waiting to take the offload.
And in the 75th minute, Olde slipped through Kevin Dennis's hands to run away for his third try.
"I was thinking the hat-trick wasn't going to happen," said Olde who had beaten the ground in frustration when a tackle by Gareth Espin, Okehampton's ex-Barnstaple full back, had denied him earlier.
"When James Buckland scored his try I considered tackling him myself so I could score."
Okehampton found enough strength to end the match in Bideford's territory but, with O'Sullivan making a try-saving tackle on Alex Dennis, had to settle for an injury-time penalty try, awarded at a scrum.
As Bideford prepared to lift the cup for the second year running, an Okehampton fan found scant consolation in his side's two wins in their league encounters this season.
"The league is what really matters," he said. "But they still went and finished above us in that."
"This caps a great season," said Olde whose team finished third in Tribute Western Counties (west) and narrowly missed out on a play-off for promotion.
"It was disappointing not to get the chance of promotion but I think it's going to be the right thing for the club.
"We will go up next year or the year after because the team is still very young and is getting stronger."