Ross 12 pts Cotham Park 3.
CAPTAIN Gavin Oates believes Ross-on-Wye are sowing the seeds of an ‘exciting future’.
And Oates hailed the influence of man-of-the-match Casey Morgan, who scored all Ross’ points in Saturday’s battling Gloucester Two triumph at their new-look Greytree ground.
Morgan wrapped up fifth-placed Ross’ eighth league win in the last minute, running on to a pass from Oates and breaking three tackles to dive over in the left-hand corner.
Morgan had previously opened the scoring in the seventh minute, breaking through from the back of a five-metre scrum to grab his first try before slotting the conversion.
“Casey is a high-class player at our level and he reads the game and knows the right angles to run,” said Oates, who was sin-binned early in the second-half.
“Casey is also a very good soccer player who has switched to rugby. “He thrives off my contact zone and we work together really well.
“I can pop and off-load the ball and I know he’s there.
“Casey could play a lot higher level of rugby but I think we keep hold of players because we’ve got a great club atmosphere.
“Not many players leave Ross to play better rugby. Players stay with the club because there is such a good atmosphere.”
Ross are going through a rebuilding phase after back-to-back relegations, following their rise to the Gloucester Premier.
The club have secured RFU-accreditation and are now Herefordshire’s sole senior rugby representatives in the Gloucestershire leagues.
Their full-time base is now at Greytree, where British Lion Phil Vickery and current Gloucester forward Tom Savage officially opened Ross’ changing rooms and training facilities in the autumn.
Ross dominated possession and territory for long periods and tackled strongly in last Saturday’s match with mid-table Cotham Park on a heavy pitch which made running-rugby virtually impossible.
They disrupted the line-out and the scrum of the Bristol visitors, who also battled hard and gained reward through Ricky Jones’ well-struck 72nd-minute penalty.
Oates, Wayne Williams, Ashley Nelmes, Joe Deacher, Huw Bellamy and Gareth Holdsworth all impressed in a disciplined display from the hosts.
Backs coach Simon Gwynne was solid at scrum-half and played with energy until leaving the fray with five minutes left.
Cotham Park’s Olly Squire, whose parents live in Ross, said it had been an ‘old-fashioned game of rugby’.
“It was played in the right spirit and we had to put in a lot of tackles,” he said afterwards. “The conditions were tough for both teams but I thought that Ross deserved to win it.”
Ross captain Oates says his side are moving away from a forward-orientated game.
“We’ve gone away from the days of slow rucking and forward ball, we’ve got some good set moves and we’ve got forwards and backs coaches – we’ve never had that before,” he said.
“You will never again see players aged 40 to 45 years old playing first team rugby at Ross. Physically, it’s a much harder game now. “You see the likes of Ali Hunter-Blair, one of the best players to ever play for Ross. Sadly, due to injury, he retired in his early 20s.”
Oates says the club’s aim is to move back up the ladder.
“Perhaps at the start of the season, the aim was to gain promotion,” he said. “But that’s not the aim now.
“In the next few years, we might have a squad of under-30s and, hopefully, playing Gloucester One rugby and running teams ragged. I think the club has an exciting future ahead.” MATCH FACTS Ross: Gareth Holdsworth, Smith, Field, Brine, Josh Morgan, Bellamy, Gwynne; Redman, Clements, Williams, Nelmes, Christopher, Casey Morgan, Oates, Deacher. Replacements: Griffiths.
Cotham Park: Preston, Millership, Higham, Ace, Jones, Broadley, Myers; Robinson, Pinchip, Brimblecombe, Okaeuba, Squire, Booth, Ashby, Alexander; Replacements: Bostock, Notley.
Referee: Dave Meek (Gloucester Society).
Yellow card: Ross: Oates, 44 min.
Star man: Casey Morgan (Ross).
VASE SUCCESS AIM WINNING the North Midlands Vase remains a target for Ross this season.
The Herefordshire side will be hosting Tenbury in the third round on February 23.
“We are still in the North Midlands Vase – we have won it twice before and I know we can win it again,” said Oates. “The opportunities to win cups are few – we have got the Forest Combination against Cinderford, Drybrook and Lydney.
“We’ve won the Midlands Vase several times when we were at our pinnacle. We can do it again.”
The winners of the third-round tie will be at home to Chaddesley Corbett in the next stage.