DIRECTOR of Rugby Seb Reynolds lauded man-of-the-match Mike Hoyt after the flanker’s virtuoso display – including a sublime try – helped Rams get back to winning ways in National One following a 28-7 home triumph against Sedgley Park.
Max Hayman’s opener was added to by Hoyt, the skilful ball-player’s delightful out-the-back pass freeing Henry Bird to hare down the right before his inside ball was finished by the back row.
With Fraser Honey adding both conversions it was 14-0 at the interval, but the hosts had to wait until the 66th minute to claim a third score when a maul was illegally brought down for a penalty try.
Following that infringement Danny Rylance became the third Tigers player to be sin-binned after skipper Matt Riley and Tom Ailes, and Rams took advantage when replacement scrum-half Ollie Monye dived over for the bonus-point try.
And while Sedgley grabbed a consolation through Austin Downham, Rams were well worth a win which keeps them three points behind leaders Chinnor.
Hoyt scores in a man of the match performance for Rams Pictures: Paul Clark
Hoyt was restored to the starting line-up for the first game of 2024, and Reynolds beamed: “Mike’s not even knocking on the door, he’s really established himself in the group.
“We’ve always felt he’d add something to the side and he’s starting to show that – it’s a credit to him because he’s had to be patient, but the challenge for him now is to make the group even better.
“He’s showed a real maturity and patience which a lot of young players these days wouldn’t – they want it all within a couple of weeks and think if they’re not in after a good pre-season and a couple of games, it’s time to look elsewhere.
“But our squad aren’t like that, they’re fantastic – Mike had to wait a whole year to be in the side.
“We sat down in the off-season and he was positive, he trusted in what we thought about him and what he could do – he backed us and we backed him and now it’s bearing fruit.”
Looking at the first contest of the year, the DoR continued: “It was a good game of rugby – they’d had the chance to blow the cobwebs out last week in a tough game with Blackheath and they’re a very good side.
“They play a unique style, which is great for National One, and you have to look to shut down their threats – (fly-half) Warren Seals is such a good player – and I thought we did that.
“There was probably a 20-minute period of building into the game after the (Christmas) break, but I thought we got better and better as the game went on and finished strongly.”
Rams built into the game with a series of early scrum penalties which forced two changes in the visitors’ front row inside half-an-hour, with the irrepressible James Baker leading the charge at the set-piece on his 407th appearance.
Yet Reynolds felt his side could have gained further reward as he stated: “James was probably a bit unfortunate not to get a bit more dominance, there were a few calls going against us which we’ll have to look at, but he was fantastic.
“He’s not started a game for a while, so it was nice for him and Ant (Marris, loose-head) to go from the off, and they both put in a very strong performance.”
With the game stagnating slightly in the third quarter, Rams’ exuberant substitutes again provided impact with Rowan Grundy’s break setting-up Monye for the bonus-point, and the head coach revealed: “We knew the guys on the bench could bring a bit of zip to the game – you feel a bit sorry
for the guys around them (who are tiring) – and they certainly added something.
“But it’s what you expect from them, you want them to advance what we’re trying to do.”
It was four weeks since the Chinnor setback which saw the Thame men hit the summit, but Reynolds ended by saying it added no extra pressure to put in what was a solid performance.
He concluded: “It was so long ago we didn’t think about it – it was all about making sure we performed against a dangerous Sedgley side who have been doing well.
“The guys have been excellent in the two weeks since coming back and they’ve been intense and enthusiastic in training, so I’m pleased with the first run out. But there’s still loads to improve on.”
Rams head to fourth-placed Rosslyn Park on Saturday (3pm).
By Richard Ashton