RUGBY: Old Laurentians

Dan O'Brien scored all of OLs points
Dan O'Brien scored all of OLs points
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Frustration at losing to side lower in league

Midlands 1 West

Old Laurentians 9

Berkswell & Balsall 20

OLs recent fine home form came to an abrupt halt at the hands of Berkswell & Balsall on Saturday, the home support left perplexed by a team that has accounted for several of the league’s top teams at Fenley Field this year yet falling to defeat a side trailing them in the league, writes Bill Wallis.

One of the reasons for that was the visitors’ pack, around whom their game is based and who set up this win for their side. OLs eight surprised them somewhat by taking the first scrum on Berkswell’s put in, as they were to do three more times. But on OLs first scrum an eight man shove from their opponents had them careering backwards. Although the home eight did level affairs up as the game wore on, they were always under pressure, missing the ballast and experience normally supplied by the absent Paul Willis.

Two Dan O’Brien penalties gave OLs a slender 6-0 lead at half time but Berkswell went ahead after fly half John Lowden took possession straight from a lineout to slice through some ineffective tackling and touch down, Bignell improving the try for a 7-6 lead. But the game was decided by two moments just before the half hour mark in the second half.

OLs set up a fine movement that looked certain to lead to a try but wing Lee Hersey slipped in the act of cutting inside the last defender just feet from the line and put a foot in touch. OLs won the lineout and attacked the visitors’ line, Liam Deery and Ben Anderson being held just short. The ball was moved wide and a long pass towards the wing was intercepted by Berkswell scrum half Bevitt Smith and he sprinted 80 metres to the line for a try that presented Bignell with a simple conversion and a 14-6 lead.

O’Brien pegged back three points back with a penalty and OLs were back into the contest with a chance. But Berkswell penned them back into their own half and forced OLs to chase the game from deep. The result was two penalty awards to the visitors, both coolly converted by Bignell, which pushed Berkswell’s lead out to 20-9 and OLs sole consolation of a losing bonus point evaporated.

A canny performance by the visitors who took the tempo out of the game at every opportunity, not least by a series of injuries in the second half which, ironically, were attended to by Suzi Cox, OLs physio. The game was just the second this season when OLs have failed to cross the line for a try, Berkswell’s big and effective back row having a major part to play in that, aided by some poor ball retention in OLs back line.

No league action this Saturday as OLs prepare for a trip to Burton on March 22, a difficult task away from home against the side currently in third place in the league. But OLs will take heart and encouragement from the fact that they did everything but beat the Staffordshire side in the reverse fixture before going down 6-10.

Team: Jon Bean, Troy Owen, Iain Wallis, Ben Shepherd Lee Hersey; Dan O’Brien, Richard Parker, Olly Cowley, Dom Hammond, Chris le Poidevin, Ben O’Riordan, Ben Anderson, James Orbinson, Jack Seager, Liam Deery.

Replacements:

Ben Roach, Aaron Metcalfe (for le Poidevin), Tom Gleghorn (for Seager)

Scorers:

Penalties: Dan O’Brien (3)

PICTURE BY RAY TODD