League leaders maintain unbeaten record
Midlands 2 West (South)
Old Laurentians 15
The visit of second placed Banbury to Fenley Field was destined to produce a close, hard fought match and that’s exactly how it happened, writes Bill Wallis.
When the visitors opened up a narrow 12-8 lead early in the second half, OLs had to work hard to preserve their unbeaten league record and league leadership and they produced a strong second half performance that saw them through.
OLs had the first points on the board inside the opening minute after James Orbinson exploited Banbury hesitation at the kick off, Ben Shepherd ran strongly in support and the visitors conceded a penalty in the tackle which Dan O’Brien put over.
Banbury went on to the attack from the re-start but ran up against uncompromising OLs defence. It was OLs who scored the game’s first try on 20 minutes, when ten minutes of relentless attack was rewarded after a strong run by Chris le Poidevin created the space for Ben Shepherd to go over on the right and put OLs 8-0 up.
That score was followed by a further spell of pressure on the Banbury line, le Poidevin going close and thrusts from O’Brien and Wallis held as they met some committed and resolute defence.
As half time approached, Banbury lifted the siege and from a lineout deep in OLs half retained possession well for centre Manley to finish strongly in the right hand corner. The try went unconverted and the break arrived with OLs 8-5 to the good.
Banbury continued in the same vein in the early stages of the second half and took the lead after five minutes when Manley again showed his strength to burst through midfield and make the line, Phillips converting to put his side 12-8 ahead.
This served as a wake up for OLs who went back on to the front foot to dominate the remainder of the game. Dan O’Brien’s fine kicking kept the visitors penned back into their own half, frequently finding the spaces behind their back three. With lineout and scrum functioning well, OLs pressure told when possession from a lineout was driven on and James Orbinson claimed the try, O’Brien converting for 15-12 after twenty minutes.
Banbury’s defence was breached again when a clever kick over the top by Parker almost led to a try, the referee spotting a knock on as the ball was followed up.
Ultimately OLs all round game, typified by James Orbinson, was just too strong for Banbury. Orbinson senior, Andy, had a fine game at 8 and Mark Todd, growing into the number 6 role, was always in the action.
With four of their leading prop forwards unavailable or injured, OLs looked to be facing a crisis in that department. But Aaron Metcalfe, who played the whole 80, and Leigh Fisher, who came on for le Poidevin in the second half, thoroughly dispelled any fears OLs may have had on that score.
On Saturday OLs travel to take on Droitwich, the Worcestershire side having a lean time so far with just two wins from eight. But they have always been tough opponents, so nothing will be taken for granted.