Stoke on Trent 32 Old Laurentians 18
OLs slumped to another disappointing defeat in the sort of game that they need to win to ensure a safe league position and, as a result, they slipped by a place in the league table to 10th of 14.
On a wet and miserable afternoon the Fenley Field side were well in the game in a first half in which territory and possession were evenly shared and trailing by just 6-11 at the break. After Marsh kicked Stoke into an early lead, Dan O’Brien put over two penalties for OLs before Marsh levelled the score at 6-6 after 30 minutes.
OLs lost skipper Ollie Cowley early on when he suffered a blow to the eye to be followed later in the half by Ben O’Riordan, who was forced off after a heavy knock, the team’s ill luck with injuries continuing.
OLs’ best efforts were being repelled by solid Stoke defence but they just failed to convert a gilt edged opportunity after Iain Wallis took a quick lineout to send Andy Coleman away, the flanker’s pass just failing to reach Lee Hersey with the wing in the clear.
Deep into added time at the break, Stoke scored a try at a critical time. Attacking OLs’ 22 down their left flank, Hersey made a fine tackle on his man but the ball bounced free for Stoke centre Price to hack it on and just win the race to touch down. The conversion was missed but Stoke had the lead as the half time whistle went.
OLs fell further behind just two minutes into the second half when Stoke scored straight from a lineout, strong running in the centre punching a hole in OLs defence for full back Marsh to go over, converting his own try to increase his side’s lead to 18-6.
The score stayed this way for the next 25 minutes, OLs enjoying plenty of possession and occupying Stoke territory; but sloppy errors meant they were struggling to convert that possession into a meaningful threat. OLs finally breached the home defence when they created the space for Jon Bean to cross in the corner. O’Brien’s conversion attempt just missed and OLs were back to 11-18. Four minutes later, OLs gathering momentum was abruptly halted when they presented a gift-wrapped try to their opponents when trying to run the ball from behind their own line. A pass was dropped, Stoke’s lock Davies gratefully fell on the ball and Marsh improved the try to stretch the home side’s lead to 25-11.
The force was now with Stoke and Price added to their tally in added time with a try, the goal points lifting their lead to 32-11. There was still time for OLs to go back on the offensive and it was hooker Dom Hammond, OLs’ stand out man on the day, who broke the defensive shackles for a strong run down the right before finding Wallis up in support to score under the posts, the conversion heralding the final whistle.
OLs next four matches are against the sides immediately around them in the league table, starting with Stratford’s visit to Fenley Field on Saturday It’s vital that they gather points from each of those games to stay clear of the danger zone at the bottom of the table. What’s needed is a return to the form displayed in the first game of the season, when they pushed league leaders Lichfield all the way.