Midlands 2 West Promotion Play-off
Old Laurentians 16 – Moseley Oak 6
The biggest game of the season at Fenley Field saw OLs win promotion to Midlands One in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd, over 400 passing through the gate. This was always expected to be a tight affair against a Moseley Oak side that had enjoyed their best season ever.
After the morning showers had passed through, the afternoon was bright and warm and the mood expectant. Coach Stu Birch wanted a purposeful and strong start from his side, and this was what he got. But half time was reached with OLs just 9-3 ahead and a feeling that the margin should have been greater with the home side dominating territory and possession through the opening forty minutes.
After Oak narrowed that advantage with a second half drop goal, there was growing anxiety amongst the home support. But when Iain Wallis went over for the game’s only try the mood on the touchline was lifted and OLs had secured the game.
OLs were on the front foot from the first whistle and three times in the first fifteen minutes their pressure forced penalties and three times Dan O’Brien’s boot converted them into points, the third of them being a beautifully judged kick from over forty metres out.
OLs back row of Glenn Todd, skipper Ben O’Riordan and James Orbinson were ruthless at close quarters, not allowing Moseley to develop any momentum and stifling many of their moves at source. Orbinson was having a massive game, the first to any loose ball and always prominent in open play and scrum half Richard Parker was like a fourth back row, giving his opposite number a torrid time as well as providing a swift service to his backs.
OLs were shading the battle up front to give their backs a good supply of possession but Moseley’s defence was strong and resolute, keeping OLs at bay. When Oak’s fly half Dan Pons kicked a penalty after thirty minutes it was the first time that his side had reached OLs 22.
With the breeze behind them in the second half, the visitors upped their game and Pons threatened early, a massive penalty attempt from inside his own half not missing by much; and when the same player put over a well taken drop goal to reduce the margin to 9-6 it was game on.
Full back Ben Wiles was already off for treatment to a broken nose when OLs lost one of their most effective forwards, second row Ben Anderson being forced off with an ankle injury. Skipper O’Riordan moved up to replace him and Jack Morphet came on. Matters worsened when O’Riordan had to retire from the action, leaving OLs with just one recognised lineout specialist in Paul Willis. Seasoned campaigner that he is, Willis rose to the challenge to ensure that OLs maintained parity in all phases.
But after 22 minutes of the second half the game swung back irrevocably OL’s way. After a prolonged period of pressure in Oak’s half an untidy ball squirted out of a scrum on OL’s side, Parker got his boot to it to pass it soccer style towards his backs and after a neat little shimmy by Jon Bean to create half a gap, Wallis was away for the line. Weaving past a couple of tackles, it was sheer determination that took him through the last defenders to stretch a long arm out and touch down for the try. Dan O’Brien duly converted for 16-6 and OLs were now two scores ahead.
Oak were now up against it, but refused to buckle and mounted several attacks from promising positions in the home side’s half. But it wasn’t by chance that OLs had the meanest defence in their league this season and they kept their opponents at arm’s length through the remainder of the game.
Expertly and decisively refereed by Nicola Reynolds from the East Midlands Society, the game was played in a good spirit from first to last. This was a great way to end an excellent season for OLs and they can now look forward to another crack at Midlands One.
Old Laurentian 2nds
OLs 2nds meet Lutterworth 2nds in the final of the Clonmell Cup this coming Sunday. The match will be held at Newbold RFC with a 2:15pm kick-off.