Last league game of the season
Midlands One West
Old Laurentians 32
OLs could not have faced a tougher task in their bid to stave off relegation, league champions Lichfield visiting Fenley Field for the last league game of the season. But they rose to the challenge to push their visitors all the way in a massively entertaining game. But ultimately the visitors’ class told as they turned on the power in the closing stages to clinch their win.
OLs started with the clear intention of taking the game to their visitors and they pressed hard in the opening exchanges. But Lichfield showed their counter attacking flair with less than three minutes on the clock when they ran a ball from deep and full back Greg Massey finished decisively.
But OLs hit back after 15 minutes when Ben Shepherd powered through from the Lichfield 22 to go over, Dan O’Brien adding the goal points to put them 7-5 ahead. By this time OLs had suffered a serious blow when losing scrum half Richard Parker to injury, Iain Wallis moving in from the centre to take over.
Minutes later OLs turned over Lichfield possession in their half and a penetrating run by Troy Owen ended short of the line, Lichfield were penalised in the following ruck and O’Brien kicked the goal to lift OLs lead to 10-5. Lichfield hit back to equalise with an unconverted try by wing Dan Rowlands, reminding OLs of the constant threat they posed with ball in hand.
But the home side’s riposte was swift and decisive when they won the ball back at the re-start, and prop Chris le Poidevin breached the defensive line with a storming run to link with flanker Andy Orbinson who sent lock Ben Anderson galloping over for a try, O’Brien’s conversion lifting OLs lead to 17-10.
OLs were now running the game, Dan O’Brien’s fine kicking keeping Lichfield penned back in their own half. As half time approached another penalty was conceded and O’Brien slotted it to lift OLs into a 20-10 lead and their support was reaching fever pitch on the touch line. But Lichfield were always dangerous with the ball and a counter attack was finished by Greg Massey, converted by Luke Massey and followed by the half time whistle, bringing OLs lead at the break down to 20-17.
Lichfield stuck to their game plan of feeding their pacy backs at every opportunity and it paid off with two tries in the first fifteen minutes of the second half, the second capitalising on a poor midfield pass by OLs that went to ground. One was converted and suddenly Lichfield were 29-20 ahead.
Then followed a great passage of play by OLs, putting heavy pressure on the Lichfield line and going close several times. Lichfield conceded a penalty, O’Brien dropped it into touch near the corner and after another fine catch by Paul Willis the pack drove unstoppably for the line, James Orbinson touching down for the try. O’Brien’s kick from wide missed but OLs were right back in the hunt at 25-29 with a little over 20 minutes to play.
But the last period of play saw Lichfield take over to add three further tries in a fifteen minute spell, Greg Massey lifted his haul for the game to four, flanker Milner added one, and Lichfield had stretched out to a 46-25 lead. OLs were on the back foot for much of this spell but finished with a flourish, once more taking the game to their opponents. Strong play by the pack some fifteen metres out gave stand in scrum half Wallis the chance to snipe around the blind side and go over for OLs fourth try and with it the bonus point, O’Brien converting.
When a side is battling relegation, the last thing they need is to come up against a side of Lichfield’s quality and the solitary point garnered is unlikely to save OLs. Despite losing a sizeable chunk of the season to injury, James Orbinson was yet again OLs stand out performer with older brother Andy only a step or two behind him. Now OLs must await other results over the next two weeks to learn their fate.
An American Invasion
If you hear a lot of American accents around town over the next few days, you have probably encountered members of Metropolis RFC from Minneapolis, Minnesota who are here as guests of Old Laurentians. The relationship began back in 1989 when the first touring party from Minneapolis visited OLs, so this is the 25th anniversary of that trip and the bond between the clubs has grown ever stronger over that period with regular trips in both directions.
In a tour party of 70 plus, there are more than a dozen of those who made the original trip a quarter of a century ago, some of them turning out in a Veterans side who will take on their OLs counterparts in a match at Fenley Field on Saturday. This will be followed by an ‘A’ team match between the clubs, kicking off at 3pm, assuming 30 players are fit enough to take to the field after two days of conviviality and celebration!