RUGBY: Clonmell Cup final

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OLs take on Saints in 2nd XV challenge

Rugby & District Clonmell Cup – Final

Rugby St Andrews 2nd XV 7 -

Old Laurentian 2nd XV 32

After coming very close over recent years, Old Laurentians finally got their hands on the Clonmell Cup at Webb Ellis Road on Sunday. The strength of grass roots rugby in the area was amply demonstrated by the standard of play and by the large crowd who turned up, with over 400 paying spectators coming through the gate to watch an entertaining game. Before the main event they were entertained to some great mini-rugby when the Under 9 sides from each club met, OLs shading the results in perhaps a portent of things to come afterwards.

OLs had effectively wrapped the game up after thirty minutes, when they had built a comfortable 24-0 lead. But it was a fired up Saints side who came out for the second half and dominated for long periods without being able to break down OL’s defence and add to their solitary first half score.

Fly half Danny Orr got OLs under way with a finely struck penalty after just four minutes play. Then with ten minutes on the clock, full back Grant Inch launched an attack from deep and Orr took it on to finish expertly from 35 metres out, converting his own try to lift the lead to 10-0.

Just before the twenty minute mark, a long penalty by Orr found touch deep in Saints’ 22, they conceded a free kick at the lineout and OLs forwards drove for the line, scrum half Ted Wallis driving over for a try that Orr converted to lift the lead to 17-0.

Despite the edge that the big Saints pack had established at both set scrums and lineouts, OL’s forwards were sharper in the loose and quicker to the breakdown and with scrum half Wallis providing a smooth link, their backs were seeing plenty of the ball. In the centre, Ben Shepherd and Alex Smith were constantly testing Saints’ midfield defence, the latter looking very much at home for a flanker deployed in an unfamiliar position.

It was Shepherd who registered OL’s next try, after another attack instigated by Inch. OL’s big centre spread-eagled Saint’s defence with a powerful run, getting over the line despite the close attention of several defenders, Orr converted and the score rose to 24-0.

After thirty five minutes, OLs ambitiously ran a penalty from their own 22, the ball squirted free from a tackle and Saints’ centre Simon Kilborn was quickest to the loose ball to touch down under the posts, Matty Waldron converting to reduce the deficit to 24-7 .

In added time at the break, OLs flanker Paul Lewis got up quickly to halt a Saints’ attack and in trying to recover the ball they conceded a penalty that Orr kicked for a 27-7 lead at half time.

After four minutes of the second half, OLs stretched their lead with a well-constructed and expertly finished try. Right wing Greg Loydall, ran back a missed touch finder and number 8 Richard Foxon took the ball on with a powerful run through midfield that sucked in the cover defence. The ball was recycled quickly and Shepherd made the first thrust before handing on to Smith who ran strongly to score half way out. The conversion missed, but OLs were 32-7 ahead.

This was to be the final score of the game, as Saints forwards fought their way back into the contest and took the game to OLs, who were then limited to occasional counter attacks as they came under siege. But Saints, despite camping on OL’s line in the clubhouse corner for a long period and coming close to a score on several occasions, were unable to find either the power or the guile to finally breach a stubborn defence.

The result was a personal triumph for OL’s skipper James Melvin who has led his side expertly throughout a highly successful campaign, achieved despite the regular calls made on his side as a result of the 1st team’s injury plagued season. With one game to go OL’s 2nds have won 24 of the 29 games played, scoring just short of 1,100 points so far, finished a close second in Warwickshire League One and reached the semi-final of the Warwickshire Second XV Cup before bowing out to Broadstreet.

Saints team boast a similarly successful record and having won the championship of Warwickshire Two could well be facing their OL counterparts in league action next season, subject to decisions yet to be made on whether OLs are promoted.