Midlands 2 West (South)
Old Laurentians 35
Laurentians maintained their league leadership with a comfortable bonus point win against potentially tricky opponents in fifth placed Dunlop at the weekend, writes Bill Wallis.
Having absorbed the best that Dunlop could offer, OLs opened play up in the second half and their pace and invention was too much for the home club to handle as they added three tries to the two registered by the break.
Dunlop opened strongly, intent on demonstrating their forward power to the visitors. But their pick and go tactics foundered on strong OLs defence, as it was to do for the whole game.
Then, after just three minutes, they moved the ball along their line, OLs’ pressure in midfield forced a handling error and Simon Bayliss seized on the loose ball to run in unhindered for the first try, Jon Bean converting.
With 16 minutes gone, great work by James Orbinson sent Dom Hammond away on the Dunlop 22 and the hooker cut through with the pace and style of a centre to score under the posts, Bean improving his try.
OLs were now dominating territorially and the rewards came through two penalties by Bean to lift the score to 20-0.
Late in the first half, the home side succeeded in breaking out of their half to threaten OLs line and were rewarded with a try of dubious authenticity to bring the score to 20-5 at the interval.
Now with the wind behind them, Dunlop increasingly put their reliance on a kicking game, as their backs had made little headway with the ball in hand, but they found Lee Hersey at full back absolutely solid under the high ball and hard to hold when he ran the ball back.
OLs decided that the best way to attack Dunlop was the simple way – cut out the intricate moves and spin the ball wide. The home side added a penalty to their score to reduce the margin to 20-8 but OLs were now beginning to give their defensive capabilities a searching examination.
On 18 minutes, OLs won a lineout on the Dunlop 22, the forwards drove the ball on and the release was timed well, quick hands moving the ball right for Hersey to deliver the scoring pass to Bayliss.
On 23 minutes, OLs scored a try almost identical to the previous one when good lineout possession was driven on, but moved in the opposite direction and Troy Owen went over on the left wing, increasing the lead to 30-8.
Dunlop lifted their game as the match ebbed away but in a prolonged assault could find no way through the OLs defence, until a well directed chip to the corner gave their right wing a chance which he took well, the goal points added with a fine kick from the touchline.
OLs riposte was swift. An attack down the right flank was held, the movement was switched left and just stopped close to the line, followed by a scrum on the Dunlop 22.
Richard Parker sniped around the fringe and the ball was moved cleanly away for Bayliss to claim his hat-trick try, the 21st of the season for OLs right wing.
n This Saturday, OLs move into the second half of their league programme when they entertain Leamington at Fenley Field, kick off 2.15pm.
Old Laurentian 2nds 56
Rugby St Andrews 2nds 0
St Andrews arrived at Fenley Field with an under-strength side and were under pressure from the start. OLs powerful forward drives coupled with slick handling created a chance for skipper James Melvin to score his first try for... a long time!
This was followed up shortly afterwards when impressive fly half Greg Clarke picked a great line to break through the visitors’ defence for OLs second try.
The home side sucked in St Andrews players at the ruck and then released their backs with space to make ground and create a further chance for Melvin to claim his second try unchallenged.
Centre Matt Cockman was, as usual powering through any attempted tackles and it was no surprise when he added a fourth try under the posts.
Ben Roberts was impervious with his kicks, having converted all of the first half tries to give OLs a 28-0 half time advantage.
The second half began with St Andrews mounting an early period of pressure, but they couldn’t manage to breach the home side’s defence.
Great handling again led to an opening for Roberts to outstrip the chasing pack for a try to add to his points tally.
Replacement Jack Riley then added to the visitors’ woes by recording two powerful bursts over the line before Grant Inch recorded try number eight. Roberts never looked like missing with the conversions to record a personal 21 point haul.
The 2nds remain undefeated in league and cup competitions this season and are creating headaches for the selection committee with a number of players staking a claim for a first team chance.
Warwickshire League 3
Southam 2nds 5
Old Laurentian 3rds 7 (match abandoned after 50 mins)
An unfortunate injury to a Southam player with a suspected broken leg meant that this game was abandoned after about 50 minutes and presumably will have to be rearranged.
OLs obviously hope for a full and speedy recovery to the player concerned.
n Boxing Day match for Matt Hampson Foundation: Rugby at Fenley Field has been a Boxing Day tradition for Old Laurentians for many years, the match normally taking the form of under 25s v over 25s, or home players against exiles.
This year, however, Old Laurentian XV will take on a Merchants Inn XV in a game to raise funds for the Matt Hampson Foundation.
The story of Matt Hampson is well known – he was a highly promising Leicester Tigers prop forward who became paralysed from the neck down after a scrummaging accident in practice for an England U21 game in March 2005.
Matt subsequently established his charitable foundation, which is dedicated to providing help, advice and financial support for young people seriously injured through sport.
Scott Whyment is organising the Merchants XV, which will include former (and some current) OLs, as well as players from other local clubs. The only qualification is to have drunk at the Merchants Inn, which widens the selection enormously!
The game will kick off at 12noon, the bar will be open and there will be the chance to win some great prizes in a fundraising raffle.
So get on down to Bilton for some entertaining sport - and to clear your head after the excesses of the previous day!