Pictures by Mike Baker
Midlands West 2 (South)
Old Laurentians 27
OLs faced potentially the sternest test so far to their eight-match unbeaten run when Earlsdon visited Fenley Field on Saturday, both teams with very similar records this season and fourth placed Earlsdon one place and one point above OLs in the league table, writes Bill Wallis.
But OLs turned in one of their most complete performances so far this season with a comfortable bonus-point win, scoring five tries to their opponents two. They were on the front foot from the off, laying siege to the Earlsdon line and only kept at bay by some excellent defence by the visitors.
The breakthrough finally came after 15 minutes that had been played out almost entirely in the Earlsdon half, prop Chris le Poidevin putting the finishing touch to another strong forward drive.
OL’s pack established an early dominance over their opposite numbers in the tight on top at the breakdown.
Forced to play with little possession, the Earlsdon backs looked lively when they did have the ball and after 20 minutes put together a fluent passage of play that ended in a try by flanker Chare to level the scores at 5-5.
But that was to be the end of their scoring until the dying seconds of the match as they struggled thereafter against a suffocating defensive barrier put up by OLs.
With 28 minutes gone Troy Owen, in just his third game back after a long injury layoff, showed what he can do when the slightest of gaps opens up in front of him by slicing through from 40 metres out for a fine try, converted by Greg Loydall for a 12-5 lead.
More strong play by the pack forced Earlsdon into some desperate defence on their line but half time came to their rescue with no further additions to the score and OLs in charge of the game.
Straight from the re-start OLs won possession and forced Earlsdon to concede a lineout 15 metres from their line. Ben Anderson made a clean catch, the pack drove for the line and Ash Moore touched down for a try. Goal kicking was tricky in the face of a strong wind and Loydall’s conversion attempt drifted wide but OLs were 17-5 ahead.
Earlsdon were forced back into another long spell of last ditch defence on their line when one drive was held up over the line and Ben Scott got the ball down but was forced into touch as he crossed the line.
Andy Orbinson finally breached the defence to go over for a try after another irresistible forward drive to lift the score to 22-5 after Loydall’s conversion kick came back off a post.
After a scrum was won against the head near halfway, Loydall sent Scott away to cross the line but the final pass was adjudged forward. But still OLs came back relentlessly and Scott was involved again, making ground before finding Luke Townsend who finished decisively for 27-5, the winger’s eighth try in ten appearances this season.
In the dying moments of the game, Earlsdon lifted the siege and broke away for Chare to touch down for his second try, converted, followed immediately by the final whistle.
A fine all-round team performance brought OLs their ninth successive win in league and cup and lifted them over Earlsdon to fourth place in the league table, now four points ahead of the Coventry club and just one point off third place.
Next up on Saturday is a trip to eighth placed Evesham, a club performing creditably in their first season at this level. But January will present a real test of OL’s credentials and could make or break their season as they start on the 5th with a home game against Kidderminster, currently second in the table on points difference with just one loss against their name.
Then two weeks later, on January 19, is another massive game when they travel to take on the same opponents in the Midlands semi-final of the RFU Intermediate Cup.
Recent form suggests they are entitled to start the second half of the season with genuine optimism as confidence is running high on the back of a series of impressive wins.