Pictures by Mike Baker
Midlands 2 West (South)
Old Laurentians 15 – Barkers Butts 61
Report by Bill Wallis
No-one saw this one coming! OLs prepared for this match confident of winning their 17th consecutive league game, having beaten the same opponents in the reverse fixture back in December, their main weakness then being that they failed to convert a total dominance for three quarters of the game into more points; and their opponents started the day in 7th position in the league, 31 points behind OLs.
This time round the boot was on the other foot as Barkers were as dominant as OLs had been in that earlier encounter, the difference being that they ruthlessly converted that superiority into 9 tries. OLs have not become a poor side overnight but Barkers seem to have become a very good side overnight, in fact by some distance the best that OLs have met this season.
OK, so OLs were missing 4 of their top 6 points scorers for the season, but you have to create scoring opportunities and Barkers were in no mood to allow this. The more likely explanation is that Barkers have strengthened their side considerably since that earlier game, only 6 of their starting line-up on Saturday having featured in December’s encounter. It seems that returning players and new signings, some with National League experience, have noticeably improved their playing strength, sadly for Barkers too late for them to make a serious impact on the league this season.
Barkers had their first try on the board for an early lead after six minutes. Jon Bean kicked a penalty for OLs, sandwiched by two tries by Barkers’ impressive lock forward Walker, running with pace and power to give the visitors a 3-19 lead after 30 minutes. They added a further try to claim the bonus point five minutes later, before scrum half James Collins finished off a strong forward drive to touch down for OLs and a half time score of 8-26.
OLs have come back from half time deficits to claim impressive wins earlier this season, but any hopes of a similar revival this time were squashed when Barkers ran in two more tries in the first 15 minutes of the second half, both converted, to give them an unassailable lead at 8-40.
OLs then worked a scoring opportunity which was well finished by wing Ben Scott, Bean converting with a fine kick to reduce the deficit to 15-40 after 19 second half minutes. But that was as good as it got as Barkers ran in 3 more tries, each converted, in the final quarter, their outstanding flanker Allen claiming two of them. Those last 21 points turned a poor result into a shocker as OLs’ defence went missing, a disappointing feature of their play which must be remedied on the run in to the end of the season.
From the first whistle Barkers’ back line was dangerous with ball in hand, slicing gaps through a hesitant defence at will; and their line speed in defence stifled any attacking attempts by OLs through their backs. The forward battle was closer in the set pieces and OLs best attacking option was through their pack, the back row of the Orbinson brothers and Charlie Seager never flagging and carrying strongly to make some hard yards.
The best news of the day (the only good news!) was OLs’ 2nd XV winning their away clash with Barkers 2nds, coming through by 34-21 to hold on to top spot in Warwickshire League 1 ahead of their opponents on the day, a fine win considering the strength of the opposition.
This reversal put a big dent into OLs’ promotion ambitions as Kidderminster won well to draw level in 2nd place in the league. It now means that OLs must win their final three games, with bonus points, to be sure of retaining 2nd place and a play-off for promotion, starting at Earlsdon this Saturday. A tall order, and a rapid return to their earlier form, putting this disaster behind them, is essential.
Warwickshire League One
Barkers Butts 2nd XV 21 – Old Laurentian 2nd XV 34
Report by Garrie Reeve
In a superb, end to end game, OLs scored 5 tries to their opponents’ 3 to notch up a fine win over the side lying second to them in the league.
Sam White outstripped the defence for the first score; but Barkers responded quickly to take a 7-5 lead
White then set up Ben Fincham, the wing using his pace to score his first try for the club. Barkers soon replied when a drive from a lineout saw them cross the line to restore their lead to 14 -10.
A typically powerful run from centre Luke Billyeald took OLs deep inside the Barkers half, before White’s scoring pass to winger Esworthy was deliberately knocked on and a penalty try awarded to put OLs ahead again at 14-17. White then kicked a penalty to put OLs in the lead at 14-20 as half time arrived.
OLs made the faster start to the 2nd half and full back Bunting sent the supporting Fincham away to score his second try of the match.
Then a lovely exchange of passes between Billyeald, Bunting and Fincham gave Sam Miles the ball and he powered through several tackles to score a well-deserved, converted try and lift OLs to a 14-34 lead
With just under ten minutes to play, Barkers fly half scored again to renew their hope of a comeback.
OLs ran down the final minutes and won a fine contest that doesn’t mathematically ensure that OLs will finish at the top of the league, but the likelihood is that they will.