Lead changes hands five times in second half but OLs edged out in game they should have won
Midlands One West
Walsall 41 -
Old Laurentians 31
In a fluctuating contest in which OLs led at half time, the lead changed hands no less than five times in the second 40 before Walsall clinched the game in the last five minutes. Their final score robbed OLs of the losing bonus point that they had fought hard for, although the Fenley Field side did come away with a try bonus.
An unfamiliar and much changed back line took to the field for OLs with Owen Robinson making his debut, Ben Roach coming in at scrum half, a new centre pairing of Ben Wiles and Matt Cockman and Troy Owen moving to full back.
Wiles caught the eye in his first start of the season, Robinson showed clear promise and Roach was busy and purposeful throughout.
Unused to playing together as a unit, it showed in their defensive organisation, Walsall taking full advantage with three of their tries directly exploiting this fallibility.
Jon Bean kicked OLs into an early lead after Roach’s persistence had set up the opportunity. But a poor clearance kick allowed Walsall to send number 8 Simpson over for a try after sixteen minutes.
OLs hit back after a strong drive by the pack set up a position from which Wiles jinked over, Bean converting the try for a 10-5 lead. But OLs soon extended this after another unstoppable drive by their dominant pack. The ball was moved quickly away and hooker Dom Hammond was on hand to finish the move, Bean converting superbly from wide out.
Weston reduced the deficit for Walsall with a penalty before OLs presented them with their customary gift try, a clearance kick being charged down for a simple walk in, leaving OLs with a 17-13 lead at the break Early in the second half, OLs lost control of the ball after a scrum near their line and Walsall whipped it away with a clear two man overlap and a try by their right wing, the goal points putting the home side into the lead at 20-17.
OLs hit back to regain the lead, a heel against the head leading to swift movement left and right before Glenn Todd finished it off with a familiar surge to the line, Bean converting for a 24-20 lead.
Liam Deery came on into the back row for his debut and immediately made an impression with some forceful carries and tackles but OLs were reduced to 14 when Cockman was yellow carded for a technical infringement. Walsall promptly took advantage when again exploiting a poorly aligned defensive line for their right wing to go over, the conversion lifting them into a 27-20 lead.
OLs response was immediate. Wiles surged powerfully through midfield and lock Ben Anderson was up to finish with the try, converted by Bean for OLs to regain the lead at 31 -27.
Walsall got their noses back in front after taking a quick penalty in OLs 22 when Andy Coleman had been harshly penalised for a debatable offside, the converted try giving them the lead once more at 34-31.
The final home try rubbed salt into OLs wounds as it meant no losing bonus point in a game that OLs should have won, lack of concentration at critical times costing them a possible five points.
But there were many plus points to take away from the game, not least another impressive showing by the pack and some highly promising debut performances. Next up are Barkers Butts, who visit Fenley Field on Saturday in another game OLs must target for a much needed league win.
Old Laurentian 2nd XV 24 –
Cosby 1st XV 10
After a week’s break, OLs welcomed Cosby to Fenley Field for the first time. OLs were bolstered by the return of scrum half Richard Parker from injury and a first outing of the season for Tom Gleghorn.
OLs started well and Pelling fielded the kick off and set Gleghorn on a 30 metre charge through the Cosby defence. After several phases Parker exploited the space on the blindside to send Gleghorn over for the game’s first score after 5 minutes.
OLs were looking the more settled side as their forwards out muscled the visitors at the break down and scrum half Parker was giving his opposite number a torrid time at the back of the scrum. OLs were not having it all their own way, however, with the strong running Cosby centre testing their defence to the limit.
After 15 minutes the arch poacher Ted Wallis intercepted a long Cosby pass and moved the ball quickly wide for Duane Morris to speed over, Grealey adding the conversion.
OLs were now playing with confidence and as the half drew to a close an excellent break by Wallis and injection of pace from Morris gave Kyle Bramley a sight of the line, and the winger duly obliged showing great strength and enterprise to get the ball down, giving OLs a 17-0 half time lead
After the break OLs were caught cold as a revitalised Cosby side took the game to them and their centre crashed over to register their first score of the afternoon.
For the next 25 minutes the two sides cancelled each other out, each butchering try scoring opportunities. OLs resilient defence led by the tireless James Melvin and man mountain Aaron Metcalfe was halting Cosby in their tracks as they threw everything they had at OLs
As the game drew to a close quick lineout ball was moved to the impressive Rob Hughes who made a fine break and found fullback Morris in support to score his second of the afternoon, Grealey adding the extras.
OLs switched off and allowed Cosby to have the final score of the game which was just reward for their second half efforts.
This was an excellent result against strong opposition and will set the side up well for their Warwickshire Cup tie with Kenilworth at Fenley Field on Sunday.
Reports by Bill Wallis & Dave Middleton
Picture by Mick Warwick