The records tell us that these old rivals first clashed over 90 years ago, in 1923, and there haven’t been many drawn games over that period.
In a match that never scaled the heights, but one which kept the large crowd glued to the action, this was probably a fair result. Both sides had chances to secure the win points in the closing stages, but neither could take them so it finished with honours even
It started with what must be a contender for the earliest player substitution ever when OLs hooker Dom Hammond was left on the floor in some pain with a knee injury after chasing the kick off, bringing prop Kieran McArdle on to the field for his league debut with less than 30 seconds on the clock. To the amazement of all, Hammond was back on the field after 15 minutes to contribute mightily to his side’s cause with a brilliant solo try just 20 minutes later.
OLs were first so show with a strong spell of early pressure on the Newbold line but solid defence kept them at bay and they came away with nothing. Newbold then took up the running and drew first blood after eighteen minutes when some smart handling in the home 22 sent full back Ethan Wookey over for a good try, the relatively straightforward conversion attempt from Andrews going astray.
Straight from the restart OLs flanker James Orbinson forced a turnover, Newbold conceded a penalty on their 22 and Dan O’Brien put it over for 3-5. With neither forward pack able to consistently gain an edge over their opposite numbers there was a period of stalemate, broken three minutes before the break by Hammond’s outstanding score. Newbold were attacking near OLs’ 22 when the ball went loose and OLs’ hooker was first to it, setting off down the touchline to outstrip the covering defenders and touch down after a 60 metre run. O’Brien kicked the conversion to give OLs a 10-5 lead at half time.
Newbold came out strongly in the second half but it was OLs who went further ahead seven minutes in after Lee Hersey stole Newbold possession in midfield to set up an attack that was halted illegally, O’Brien kicking the resultant penalty to push OLs out to a 13-5 lead. But it was Bold who largely dictated affairs for the next spell, led by a non-stop display from their whirlwind of a flanker, K J Henry. Andrews reduced the deficit to 13-8 with a finely struck penalty from OLs ten metre line after twelve minutes; then three minutes later slick handling in OLs 22 sent lock forward Ben Thompson over for a try in the corner. The conversion was missed and the score was now level at 13-13.
Andrews missed a simple penalty chance to put Bold ahead but made amends minutes later after OLs were offside on their 22, kicking the goal for 13-16. O’Brien’s re-start kick was beautifully flighted and OLs chase was good, Newbold conceded a penalty and O’Brien put it over to level the score at 16-16.
OLs went on to the offensive as the game ebbed away, Newbold’s defence holding out against a series of thrusts for the line. With the home crowd willing Dan O’Brien to go for a drop goal, he did just that with a sweetly struck kick that appeared to have won the game for his side. But the referee decided that it slid just outside the left hand upright and ruled it out, to the disappointment of the home support who were convinced that it was good – as was the kicker.
There was just time for OLs scrum half Ben Roach to put in a fine touch finder into the corner, but Bold won the lineout to clear their lines and the remaining seconds were played out without further incident.
OLs turned out in a new set of jerseys and shorts generously sponsored by Webb Ellis and Military Fitness Circuits; and the match was the first under the welcome sponsorship of international logistics and delivery giant, DHL.
OLs travel to Nuneaton on Saturday to take on another longstanding rival in Old Edwardians. The home side had a comfortable, bonus point win over Old Coventrians on Saturday and will, as ever, present a stiff challenge for the Fenley Field side.
Midlands 2 West (S)
Old Laurentians 16
Newbold on Avon 16