Pictures by Mike Baker
Warwickshire League 1
Rugby Lions Crusaders 12 – Old Laurentians 2nd XV 39
OLs’ 2nd team travelled the short distance to Webb Ellis Road to take on their local rivals in this Warwickshire League One fixture on what was a gloriously sunny afternoon that encouraged running rugby, writes Garrie Reeve.
Starting with the sun on their backs, OLs shot out of the blocks and before the management team had even had chance to finish their customary pre-match snacks, had scored.
Forcing a lineout inside the Lions 22, OLs spread the ball wide and when the danger seemed to be contained by the home side, OLs’ full back, Will Adam, evaded a couple of tackles to score out wide on the right. Captain, Sam White, excellently converted from the touchline to give his side the perfect start.
Rattled by this early score, Lions took the game to their opponents but the well organised OLs defence stood their ground and prevented any scoring reply from the Lions.
The OLs’ pack were beginning to dominate the close quarter battles and providing their backs with decent ball with which to attack.
On 15 minutes, one such passage of possession saw Adam receive the ball 40 metres out. With few options available he kicked through into the Lions 22 and, skilfully gathering his own kick, he sped his way to the try line to score beneath the posts and give White an easy chance to add the extras.
Remarkably, Adam was to go over for his third try soon afterwards. An attacking line out gave OLs’ backs the chance to show their worth, the ball going along the line to Adam who crashed his way over the line in the right corner, in what was a carbon copy of his first try, to complete a twenty-minute hat-trick.
The frustration of the way the match was panning out was getting all too much for the Lions and indiscipline at a decision by the referee would see them reduced to 14 players by a yellow card.
Critically, OLs would soon take full advantage of the extra man. An attacking penalty kicked to the corner was caught and driven by the dominant OLs’ pack and, like many times throughout his playing career, Gary Hammond was on the end of the driving maul to score a deserved fourth OLs try.
The half-time score of 0 – 24 to OLs was well deserved, but with a slight wind at their backs and the sun in their opponent’s eyes, Lions were not out of this match. Taking the game to their opponents, Lions were soon applying pressure to the OLs’ defence.
Committed defence out wide saw OLs prevent Lions from crossing their line. But when the recycled ball was spun the other way, the stretched OLs defence infringed at the breakdown. From the resulting penalty, a quick tap saw the defence at sixes and sevens, allowing the Lions to score their first try of the afternoon.
This early score proved to be a wake-up call for the OLs and the intensity with which they played the first half returned.
Another attacking lineout inside Lions territory was driven close to the Lions try-line.
The ball was carried forward by Ray Smith, who was held just before the line, and was quickly recycled to reach Smith’s front row colleague Hammond, who crashed through the defence to claim his second try.
OLs’ intensity did not waver, then stretching the Lions defence one way before play was switched to the opposite side where a numerical advantage saw OLs’ winger George Esworthy cross the Lions try-line to score OLs sixth try, and extend their lead to 29 points.
The dependable centre pairing of Ben Shepherd and Luke Billyeald had tested the resolve of the Lions central midfield throughout the match.
One such occasion saw Shepherd proving too hard to handle and, bouncing off a couple of tackles, Shepherd breached the Lions defence and dived over the line for OLs’ third try in 10 minutes to increase their points tally to 39.
Entering the last quarter of the match and with injury and tiredness taking their toll on both sets of players, substitutions were made to freshen up either side. Eager to get some sort of consolation, Lions kept the OLs under pressure, finally wearing down the tiring defence to score a try and take their score into double figures.
When the referee, who had an excellent performance, blew to end this absorbing encounter, both sides had players out on their feet. This match was played in good spirit and at a rapid pace which spectators from both sides enjoyed. A fantastic result for OLs built on outstanding performances from every player. This was probably OLs’ finest 80 minutes of the season so far and bodes well as they look to secure the league title in the coming month, retaining top spot following this match and now with a widening gap over their closest pursuers.
This Saturday sees the renewal of the local rivalry between OLs and Rugby St Andrews who meet at Fenley Field in matches featuring 1st, 2nd and 3rd XVs, kick off at 3pm.