Disappointing game - apart from the result
SLIDESHOW PICTURES BY MIKE BAKER
Midlands 3 West (South)
Rugby St Andrews 11
Old Leamingtonians 10
Apart from the result, this was a disappointing game. The two sides wanted to play running rugby but this was a disjointed, staccato affair, blighted by regular blasts on the whistle as players continually failed to meet the referee’s requirements at the breakdown.
There were 27 penalties in total, the majority against OLs, four yellow cards, frequent lectures and numerous scrums for handling errors by both sides.
As a result there was little in the way of continuity and clear cut scoring chances were few and far between.
However, because the scores were so close for the duration, there was high tension both for spectators and players. Saints’ better game management was ultimately decisive as they reversed the single point loss at Leamington.
The pattern of play was set in the first few minutes as the sides took it in turns to concede penalties. Saints were first to work their way into range for Ryan Taylor to open the scoring after just six minutes.
It was then the visitors’ turn and they levelled after a couple of minutes. Saints were well on top for the rest of the half, aided by further indiscipline by OL’s and some huge downwind touch finders.
From one such effort Saints opted for a drive from the lineout, which was working much more efficiently than in the last two weeks, and were only thwarted illegally on the line at the expense of a binning for foul play and dissent.
The pressure was maintained. Kristen Ennifer crashed over the line but Saints were penalised for crossing. Just as it seemed that OLs would hold out with 14 men they were outflanked when turnover ball was moved slickly to winger Josh Peat for an excellent unconverted try.
Dan Hull then became the second recipient of a yellow for a breakdown offence, leaving Saints with a potentially tricky 10 minutes before the break.
The visitors were unable to take advantage but, only five points adrift and with the prospect of the wind in their favour, they were still very much in contention.
And so it proved. A long penalty set up position for a line out drive, which looked to have been contained when the catcher’s lifters dropped him, eliciting loud appeals for a penalty, which were rightly ignored.
In the general confusion the player regained his feet and trotted over the line to score. The conversion was good and OLs took the lead.
With ever more frequent stoppages neither side could sustain their attacks.
Frustration had been building for some time and culminated in a major fracas involving both sets of forwards and a few foolhardy backs. The referee yellow carded two home team players but surprisingly no one from the visitors, who had actually instigated the whole incident.
Saints were forced to reorganise with Craig Jones and Andy Smith coming on, adding bulk and experience to the pack.
Both were key contributors as Saints dug deep, and playing a more structured game, they thwarted all the visitors’ attempts to capitalise on their two-man advantage.
Clearly buoyed by this minor victory Saints went all out for the next, and possibly decisive score. The Leamington side began to look more vulnerable as pressure mounted. Passes went astray and poor kicks from defence were either run back or returned with interest.
Saints regained the lead with a second Ryan Taylor penalty. They failed to add to this but managed to keep the visitors at long range and secure the win.
This was a victory forged from good teamwork, sheer cussedness and tremendous spirit. Promotion from this league is out of the question but it is important to keep in touch with the mid table teams and away from the relegation zone.
They face a tough task again this week when they entertain Shipston on Stour in a rescheduled fixture.
The Rams are currently in third place and still harbour hopes of promotion. They won their home game by 27 -17 when Saints were struggling early in the season.
They have already reversed two out of three of those earlier losses and will be keen to extend that record on Saturday.