OLs made it through to the final of the Intermediate Cup but not before they had overcome a tough challenge from Wolverhampton, an injury time try by Simon Bayliss clinching the win.
On a muddy surface that became greasier as the game wore on, Wolverhampton flew out of the blocks and for the first thirty minutes had OLs on the back foot.
The home side had the first score on the board after less than three minutes when OLs tried to play a clearance kick that was heading for touch and conceded the lineout to Wolverhampton. Their pack drove the ball on but knocked on five metres short of the line. OLs won the scrum but lost control of the heel and the Wolverhampton number 8 seized the ball to plunge over for a try, converted for a 7-0 lead.
The home side were buoyed by this early score and took the game to OLs, their excellent half backs and inside centre asking lots of questions of the visitors’ defence with back play that defied the greasy conditions. But OLs defence held firm and despite their dominance Wolverhampton could only add a penalty goal in the 27th minute to lift their lead to 10-0.
OLs began to work their way into the game in the second quarter and as half time approached a box kick from Richard Parker caused confusion in the defence and Simon Baylis s reacted quickest to seize the loose ball and sprint away for a try. The conversion was missed but OLs were just 10-5 down at the break with everything to play for.
OLs came out for the second half revved up by coach Stuart Birch and started to play with far more conviction and purpose, taking control of the game. In one period of play Wolverhampton conceded a series of penalties close to their line before the referee finally ran out of patience and showed a yellow card to a home prop, although a penalty try must have been close.
Lee Hersey, Ben Nuttall and James Orbinson all came off the bench to play significant roles as OLs took charge. Glenn Todd grounded the ball over the line but the referee was unsighted; and Ben Nuttall made it over but lost control of the ball in the act of touching down.
Hersey’s runs from deep regularly troubled the defence and on eighteen minutes he kicked through and appeared to be held back as he went for the touch down. But at the following lineout, Wolverhampton overthrew, Carl Adams secured a tricky bouncing ball and powered over for a try that levelled the score at 10-10, Bean’s conversion attempt drifting wide.
Nuttall again and Troy Owen came close after good back play had set them up and OLs now looked the likely winners, with Wolverhampton limited to the occasional counter attack.
But the home side’s doughty defence kept OLs at bay until, with extra time looming after five minutes of injury time, Bayliss called for the ball on the sparsely defended right flank and Jon Bean obliged with a well placed chip that the wing gathered to race over for the winning try, converted by Bean.
OLs now await the identity of their opponents in the final. The other semi-final will be between Coalville and Oadby Wyggestonians after the latter’s surprise win over Kenilworth in a delayed quarter-final on Saturday. The date fixed for the final is Saturday 16th March, and OLs are drawn away to the winners of the outstanding semi-final.
This Saturday OLs entertain second placed Kenilworth in a league game at Fenley Field, an encounter which will go a long way towards deciding the outcome of the league championship. A big crowd is expected, so supporters are advised to arrive early as parking spaces will be at a premium, the usual additional parking areas being limited because of the soggy condition of the ground.
The big match will be preceded by exhibition matches between the under 9 and under 10 mini teams from the two clubs, kicking off at 1pm. So a feast of rugby is guaranteed for your entertainment.