Last game of the season against Derby
PICTURES BY MIKE BAKER
Midland One East
Old Laurentians 14
Although second placed Derby are, on this display, probably the best side that OLs have faced this season, this was a below par performance by the home team which fell short of the standard they have achieved in recent months. They were brushed aside by a team who must have an excellent chance of promotion through the play offs, writes Bill Wallis.
And it all started so well when OLs took a scrum against the head and Ben Wiles, Troy Owen and Glenn Todd combined to take play up to Derby’s 22. The visitors conceded a scrum from which Jon Bean fed Wiles and the centre sliced through for a fine try after six minutes, Bean’s conversion giving OLs a 7-0 lead.
Derby’s re-start kick was fumbled, the visitors reclaimed the ball and quick hands saw their centre cut through for a try, converted to level the scores. This set the tone for the game, as Derby proceeded to ruthlessly punish OL’s errors and fumbles, of which there were too many against a side of this class.
Derby went on to add three more first half tries to lead 26-7 at half time; OLs had put together a few attacking moves but they foundered on solid Derby defence. Although under pressure at scrum and lineout, they did succeed in taking four strikes against the head, hooker Dom Hammond and tight head Chris le Poidevin renewing their partnership, with the latter making a welcome first appearance of the season before making way for Kieran McArdle for the second half.
McArdle went on to trouble the Derby defence as much as anyone with some strong carrying after the break, but the visitors added three more converted tries before OLs troubled the score board operator again. And when they did it was a gem, Jon Bean judging his crossfield kick to perfection for right wing Jordan Bunn to take it on the full and go over wide out, Bean converting the try.
But there was still time for Derby to add a further converted try and hoist the fifty points for a win that wasn’t as one sided as the score suggests, as OLs had played a full part in an entertaining contest. But when Derby counter attacked from turnovers or OLs mistakes, they were fast and accurate in their finishing.
This brought the curtain down on a season OLs will want to put behind them. The serious player shortage in the early part of the season brought some heavy defeats and by the time the team was strengthened by the return of players from injury and other clubs, they were too far adrift of the rest to have any real chance of escaping relegation. But if the club had been able to field the team throughout that played through the second half of the season, the evidence is strong that they could have achieved a respectable mid table position.
It was only the top three in the league who were clearly too strong for OLs and they competed effectively against the rest since the turn of the year, left to rue a couple of narrow defeats that cost them dearly.
No less than 46 players turned out for the 1st XV over the course of the season, many of them having their first taste of rugby at this level. To them in particular the club is indebted, as they stepped into the breach when needed most and suffered some heavy defeats for their trouble.
Ben Wiles finished as OL’s leading points scorer with Glenn Todd topping the try count; and Mark Todd was the only player to have appeared in every one of the 26 games played.
A large group of players and supporters now have a tour to the USA to look forward to in May, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the club’s first visit to Metropolis RFC in Minneapolis, a great way to leave the troubles of the season behind them.