Entertaining match only decided in dying minutes
Midland One East
Old Laurentians 12
Bedford Athletic 41
If the scoreline suggests that this was a gentle stroll in the Spring sunshine for the league leaders, that was far from the case. This entertaining match wasn’t decided until its dying minutes when Athletic’s pace and power finally told, writes Bill Wallis.
OLs took an early lead and held it until the last few minutes of the first half when Bedford struck for the first time and the visitors were 7-5 ahead at the break. OLs scored early in the second period to go 12-7 ahead and with 17 minutes left Athletic had inched up to a 17-12 lead and it was still anybody’s game.
But the visitors had been ramping up the pressure in the last quarter and their free running backs added three tries in the final 10 minutes of the game to secure all the points and leave themselves just one win away from claiming the league championship.
OLs went into the match without three important members of the backline that has played a major part in their recent revival when other commitments meant that Jon Bean, Ben Scott and Reiss Boon were unavailable.
With Richard Parker moving to full back veteran scrum half Ricky Reed stepped up to the 1st team again and was the one man who had faced Athletic on their last trip to Fenley Field some 12 years ago; and Marc Eagles made a welcome return after a long gap when he came on as a second half replacement.
The first 30 minutes belonged almost entirely to OLs. Between them the returning Paul Willis, Ben Anderson and Rob Corrigan were ruling the lineout, stealing some early Athletic throws; and in the front row, Dom Hammond and Darren Dean combined to take a couple of scrums against the head.
The reward for a sustained spell of early pressure came when an Athletic clearance just reached their 22 and from the lineout the home pack drove to the line for Olly Cowley to claim the touchdown after 16 minutes for a 5-0 lead.
The pressure continued and it took some determined defence by Athletic, and a yellow card for their lock forward along the way, to keep OLs out.
Athletic rarely penetrated OL’s territory during this period and the break was just five minutes away when they mounted their first threatening attack, which resulted in a well taken try by wing Cassell, converted by Mortimer, a warning for OLs of what Athletic’s backs were capable of.
Half time arrived with Athletic just 7-5 ahead. But OLs hit back inside a minute of the second period when Jordan Bunn ran back a missed Athletic clearance and linked with Ben Wiles and Troy Owen before Richard Parker sent Paul Willis over. Wiles conversion was good and OLs had regained the lead at 12-7.
Athletic’s responded six minutes later with a try from full back Darlow, Mortimer converting to put Athletic back into the lead at 14-7. Earlier in the game OLs had spurned kickable penalties to go for tries but Athletic took a more pragmatic approach and Mortimer kicked two on 23 and 27 minutes to push his side out to a 20-12 lead.
Then came a volley of tries in the last eight minutes as OLs visibly tired and the Athletic backline opened up. Cassell and Darlow each claimed a second and Mills finished the scoring on the stroke of full time, Mortimer converting all three.
This Saturday OLs travel the short distance to Bugbrooke. The Northamptonshire side claimed a 24-14 victory in the game at Fenley Field in December and OLs will travel with confidence, looking to reverse the result and come back with the vital league points.