Excellent win after six defeats
Midland One (West)
Old Halesonians 13
Old Laurentians 25
This game started in much the same way as the home fixture did at Fenley Field back in September, with Old Halesonians playing at a very fast tempo. In the previous encounter they ran in 3 tries without reply before most of our supporters had finished their liquid lunch. This time was different!
OLs defended resolutely and in the opening barrage only conceded a penalty after 4 minutes, converted by Hooper, the Hales’ fullback. As the game unfolded, this was to be the only time OLs were without the lead.
The home side were playing a direct, quick off-loading, close support game, which is common to all the teams in the top half of this league. It’s not easy to defend against and calls for good organisation and plenty of heart. This, to a man, is what OLs produced on the day.
Following their first points, Hales’ went straight back onto the offence but, during one of the tackles, OLs managed to turnover the ball. It was quickly fed to Denzil Evans just outside his own 22. He spotted space to the right and fed the ball out to the backs, who skilfully combined to release Simon Bayliss with a bit of width to work in. From his own 10 metre line, he straightened up his opposite number, went outside him and out-stripped the cover defence to dot down under the posts, Evans added the conversion. 7-3 to OLs after 7 mins and a mouth watering game was on the cards.
Hales’ came out on the attack, once again upping the pace and, following a penalty award at the breakdown, Hooper kicked his second penalty to make the score 7-6 after 15 mins.
The visitors were now showing their spirit and, after gaining some good field position, forced Hales’ to concede a penalty, which Evans slotted home. 10-6 after 19 mins.
At this point Dan Volkman, who along with his fellow USA second row powerhouse partner, Mike Prince, were getting through loads of work, was forced to leave the field with a blood injury. Dom Hammond came on to the blind side, with Steve Pike moving into the second row. Evans was now choosing some superb options for centres, Iain Wallis and Danny Murch to show what they could do.
Volkman came back on after some repair work by Physio, Suzie. The game ebbed and flowed, with both sides trying to get the upper hand until, at a Hales’ breakdown, Bayliss managed to fly-hack the ball through and win the chase to the line to score his second try, Evans adding the extras. 17-6 after 30 minutes.
For the remainder of the half, OLs kept Hales’ at bay and were beginning to play the field position game well. The back three of Bayliss, Grant Inch and Troy Owen were to the fore during this stage.
Half time came with no further change to the scoreline.
OLs opened the second half strongly, taking the game to Old Hales’ who, despite being under pressure, were still dangerous on the counter attack. After a penalty on the halfway line, the Hales’ fullback made a lot of ground before popping off to a supporting flanker, who scored near the posts. The fullback added the conversion to make the score 17-13 after 48 mins.
On 58 mins, Andy Orbinson was given a yellow card for a tackle infringement. He and his backrow partners, Stuart Eborall and Steve Pike were having a massive influence on the game. Their defence and offence around the fringes, as well as their support at the breakdown were proving decisive in determining the way the game was going.
Despite being a man short, the visitors scored a further try after 63 mins. Inch made a strong run through the centre of the field to be supported well by the forwards. The ball was eventually fed left to Owen, who scored a good winger’s try in the corner.
This was a superb team try with continuity of the highest order. The conversion failed. 22-13.
There now followed a prolonged period of pressure from the home side, with OLs defensive resolve put to the severest test. During this period Evans was forced to leave the field with what looked to be a nasty ankle injury.
Ed Wallis came on to replace him, as did Wayne Oliver to replace Mark Todd (blood injury). Toddy and his front row team mates, Ollie Cowley and Chris LePoidevin had stood up to be counted at scrum after scrum close to the OLs line, as Hales’ tried all they could to get back into the game. OLs defence however held firm, with scrum half Rich Parker catching the eye on more than one occasion.
OLs gradually forced their way back into the Hales’ half, where they camped for the last 5 mins of the game. The visitors finally won a penalty which was stroked over by Steve Pike to make the final score 25-13.
This was an excellent performance, particularly coming as it did after six league defeats on the trot. But there are still some big games to come in the next few weeks and OLs resolve will be tested further. If they can reproduce this kind of form and team spirit, there could still be some further surprises!
Next week sees OLs on the road again with a visit to fourth placed Lichfield.
Warwickshire League 3
Old Laurentian 3rds 24
Sutton Coldfield 3rds 24
The Fenley Field faithful witnessed a cracker of a game as OLs 3rds, in their last league fixture of the season, sought to regain some respect, having suffered a 41-0 loss in the away fixture against one of the top sides in the league.
Despite falling 14-0 down in the early exchanges, OLs rallied and took the game to the visitors. A try by outstanding young prop Sam Howells and a further two by the equally impressive Jack Sparrow were all converted by the evergreen boot of Kev White to give OLs a half time lead of 21-14.
Sutton responded early in the second half with a converted try and then took the lead again at 24-21 with a penalty attempt.
But it was that man White who had the final say as he calmly knocked over a penalty in the final minutes to secure a draw in what was probably a fair result overall.
Both sides clearly wanted to just get out there and play rugby and, with a ref who allowed that to happen, the game was one of the best seen at this level for a long time. Both sides displayed impressive handling skills and a number of strong performances by some of OLs younger players were duly noted and look encouraging for the club’s future.