RUGBY: Old Laurentians

OLs 1sts v Stratford (picture by Mick Warwick)
OLs 1sts v Stratford (picture by Mick Warwick)
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League defeat, but 2nds strong in friendly

Midlands One West

Stratford Upon Avon 46

Old Laurentians 22

The tenacity and teamwork that had characterised OLs three fine wins since the turn of the year seemed to desert them completely as they stumbled to defeat against a Stratford side who displayed those same attributes in full when earning a bonus point victory at their Pearcecroft ground on Saturday, writes Bill Wallis.

Perhaps the margin of victory flattered the home side slightly, but there is no doubt that they fully deserved their win, coming from behind to secure the points in a second half display that OLs failed to match.

OLs had the initial use of a blustery wind and the first half turned into the Dan O’Brien show as he kicked four penalties and converted a try by Troy Owen set up by his astute cross field kick which gave the winger his chance. But OLs win hopes were severely dented by conceding three tries to the home side which meant that they took just a slender 19-17 lead into the break.

Stratford’s first try owed a lot to the blustery wind. A penalty attempt at goal was held up by the wind and blew back into the arms of a following player and with OLs defence flat footed a clever cross field grubber gave their right wing Cook a simple touch down.

The home side’s second try came from another well placed grubber kick when OLs thought they had won the race to touch down, but the referee disagreed, and it was 13-10. Another O’Brien penalty pushed the score out to 16-10 but Stratford hit back when full back Jo Cook waltzed through some ineffective OLs tackling to go over under the posts, Young converting for his side to take the lead for the first time at 17-16. O’Brien’s penalty gave OLs the lead at the break, but it didn’t look enough as they turned round to face the wind.

Stratford struck first in the second half after OLs had worked hard to regain lost possession and moved the ball away in attack. But they promptly coughed up the ball again and Stratford’s wing Cook had a simple run in for his second try. Another O’Brien penalty brought the scores level at 22-22 but that was as good as it got for OLs. Young kicked a penalty to restore Stratford’s lead, from which point they took control of the game.

OLs had regularly failed to look after the ball when in possession and two of the three converted tries that Stratford scored in the last fifteen minutes came from OLs errors, the last from an interception when left wing Kennedy ran from inside his 22 to score.

OLs’ set piece play was good, three strikes against the head in the scrums and some excellent lineout takes ensuring more than parity in those areas. Ben O’Riordan and Liam Deery carried well but there was little continuity in OLs play and the home side were able to repel most of their attacking efforts with comparative ease, demonstrating how to use possession effectively when the ball was in their hands.

OLs will need to recover their earlier form in time for the visit of Walsall to Fenley Field this weekend, the Staffordshire side lying fifth in the league table. They won a 41-31 thriller in the first fixture back in October, a result that OLs must reverse if they are to climb out of the danger zone at the bottom of Midlands 1.

Team: Jon Bean: Troy Owen, Ben Shepherd, Iain Wallis, Joe Shore; Dan O’Brien, Richard Parker; Olly Cowley (capt.), Dom Hammond, Chris le Poidevin; Ben Anderson, Paul Willis; James Orbinson, Ben O’Riordan, Liam Deery.

Replacements (all used):

Andy Orbinson, Aaron Metcalfe, Ben Roach

Friendly

Old Laurentian 2nd XV 27

Leamington 2nd XV 8

OLs welcomed Leamington to Fenley Field with the visitors looking to do the double over the home side having convincingly beaten the Fenley men earlier in the season, but the men in green had other ideas.

This looked like the strongest 2nd XV side OLs had fielded for some time with Messrs Gleghorn, Coleman and Hersey making welcome returns to action from injury and unavailability; and there was also a first outing for hooker Struan Murray.

The game kicked off with OLs playing into the gale force wind, knowing that they needed to restrict Leam’s opportunities, but OLs had all the early possession as the forwards carried the ball strongly into the Leams 22.

Leamington seemed to have secured the ball but skipper Garrie Reeve had other ideas as he ripped the ball off the Leamington forwards and bulldozed his way over the line to give his side the perfect start.

Leamington were finding it difficult to match the OLs forward effort and after more pressure the ball was worked to Matt Cockman who did what he does best, powering over in the corner to give OLs a 10-0 lead after 20 minutes.

The home side were not having it all their own way and it was taking a monumental defensive effort to keep Leamington at bay with Andy Coleman leading the way with countless tackles.

Leamington did get themselves on the scoreboard with a penalty from their stand off.

As the half drew to a close OLs broke from their own 22 with Coleman and the excellent Struan Murray carrying strongly; as they approached halfway the ball found its way to Hersey who ran over two defenders, round a third and touched down with another hanging off his shirt for an excellent try and a 15-3 half time lead.

With almost their first attack of the second half a perfectly executed training ground move saw Barry Scott hit the line with real intent and the fullback drew the last defender and sent Hersey in for his second score.

OLs then claimed their final score when a charged down kick fell kindly to Willie Thorne the centre rounding off a fine individual game with a try that was improved by Roberts.

Leamington did claim the final score of the match when their forwards drove over, a just reward for all their efforts.

Report by David Middleton