RUGBY: Old Laurentians

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Stratford gain revenge

Saturday 2nd April 2011

Midlands 1 West

Stratford Upon Avon 16 - Old Laurentians 15

In the third meeting between the clubs this season, Stratford gained revenge for the earlier league and cup defeats at the hands of OLs and climbed above them in the league table with this win. In doing so they delivered a serious, but not fatal, blow to OL’s efforts to stay out of the relegation area in Midlands One.

OLs started brightly and came within inches of scoring in the first two minutes after a deft pass from John Carruthers sent Iain Wallis scything through the home defence from 30 metres out. But the centre was caught inches short of the line and the danger cleared by the Stratford defence.

But OL’s enterprising back play was catching the eye and their reward came after just eight minutes when Stratford possession was turned over deep in OL’s half. Flanker Andy Coleman made a decisive break and quick hands delivered the ball to Troy Owen wide on the left. The full back made a lot of ground before being held, the ball was recycled smartly and quick hands moved it right, where Grant Inch finished off a fine passage of play with the touchdown to put OLs 5-0 up.

Two minutes later, Stratford narrowed the margin to 5-3 with a penalty by full back John Duncan. Then after twenty minutes OLs struck again after another turnover, moving the ball quickly to Luke Harris on the left. The winger’s finely judged kick ahead bounced in the in-goal area and the ever alert Andy Orbinson was up quickest to claim the try and increase OL’s lead to 10-3.

By now Stratford had worked out that their best hope off success lay in keeping the ball tight against an under powered Laurentian pack and away from their dangerous back line. So for the remainder of the game they stuck the ball up their jerseys before belting it down field, not attractive to watch but very effective in the circumstances.

Stratford pressure yielded another penalty by Duncan to reduce OL’s lead to 10-6. Then shortly before the break they went ahead for the first time when their forwards paved the way for scrum half Pritchard to go over for a try after a close in penalty award and the home side turned round with a narrow 11-10 lead.

As the second half unfolded, OL’s possession was drying up to a trickle as the Stratford pack took over. Twenty minutes in, an OL’s clearance kick failed to find touch, a vital tackle was missed as the home side ran it back and when they were held in OL’s 22, a cross-field kick by stand-off Brain gave Stratford’s right wing Whitby the chance to touch down wide out to increase his side’s lead to 16-10.

The home side’s tactics were now effectively suffocating OLs and they were struggling to make any headway until Ben Shepherd, on as a replacement, put in a storming midfield run. When he was held the ball was moved quickly away from the breakdown where John Carruthers jinked and swerved around the defence for a fine try to bring OLs up to within a point at 15-16. But with no regular kicker in the team, the attempted conversion drifted wide and with it OL’s last chance of winning the match.

OLs had outscored their opponents by three tries to two but could have no real complaint about the outcome, which yielded only a losing bonus point when the team had travelled with high hopes of the win points.

OL’s continuing injury problems meant that less than half of the near full strength team that appeared in the home match against the same opponents in October was available for this encounter. But this sort of situation goes with the territory in the game of rugby football, and the team now has to lift itself for the remaining three league games, starting with the visit of confirmed league champions Dudley Kingswinford to Fenley Field this Saturday.