Fourth-placed OLs beat Stewarts & Lloyds 32-17 with still everything to play for
Midlands 2 East (South)
Stewarts & Lloyds 17
Old Laurentians 32
OLs bounced back from defeat a week earlier to earn a bonus point win in Corby on Saturday, skipper Charlie Seager rewarded for his relentless support play with a hat-trick of tries, writes Bill Wallis.
OLs had first use of an icy wind blowing straight from the Urals, dubbed Putin’s Revenge by the hardy few on the touchline, but failed to take advantage of it and the half-time whistle sounded with the score level at 12-12.
But it was a different story in the second half, OLs playing sensible rugby against the wind and keeping the ball in hand to score four excellent tries, S&L getting one back at the death, when the touchline support were willing the referee to blow up so they could seek the refuge of the clubhouse.
S&L’s big pack were prominent in the early stages and after a bullocking run by a second row forward, the full back finished the move with a try after six minutes.
OLs were enjoying plenty of possession and territory but it was a further 15 minutes before they responded, with a trademark Luke Townsend try. The ball reached the wing inside OL’s half and he demonstrated his blistering pace to outflank the defence down the touchline before running round to the posts, making the conversion a formality for Jon Bean and a 7-5 lead.
Five minutes later, Seager was quickest to the ball as S&L fluffed a clearance near their line and touched down, the conversion from wide out missing but OLs were now 12-5 to the good.
As the first half approached its end, S&L again turned to their big pack when opting for a scrum instead of a kick when awarded a penalty in OL’s 22 and were rewarded with a try, converted to level the scores at 12-12.
The second half was a different story, the home pack faded and were outplayed by OL’s eight. In one passage of play, OLs made 70 metres through 10 or 12 phases that started close to their line, opting for this tactic. rather than attempting to clear to touch against the strong wind.
After a strong run by Cain Jones through midfield and after the ball was quickly recycled through several phases, a clever pass by Ben Roach found Chris le Poidevin cutting back against the grain, the prop crashing over for a try.
Just four minutes later, fellow prop John Barratt finished a move which featured another excellent contribution from Roach and a slick off-load by Seager to Barratt.
Richard Parker’s work commitments restrict his availability, but he has become the ideal impact player off the bench, this time replacing the injured Mike Walsh in the centre. With almost his first touch of the ball he made 30 metres through midfield with a forceful break, Ben Roach revived the attack as it flagged and sent Charlie Seager over to touch down.
As the game entered its final phase, OL’s control had become total. A wickedly bouncing ball denied Ben Anderson a score just a few feet from the home line; and another attack that saw the S&L defence in disarray finished with Charlie Seager touching down for his third try.
OLs now led by 32-12 as none of the four second half tries were converted, the game drawing to a close after a rare incursion into OL’s half by the home team had yielded an injury time try from a close in lineout.
The win means OLs stay in fourth place with everything still to play for.
Last Saturday’s clash between second-placed Market Harborough and third-placed Luton ended in a win for the latter, who leapfrogged their opponents into second spot.
This Saturday, OLs travel to Long Buckby intent on turning the tables on their hosts, who inflicted a shock defeat on the Fenley Field side in the reverse fixture, whilst the top three all have eminently winnable games.
But then it gets very interesting with OLs having home games against both sides immediately above them in the season’s finale. It all promises a fascinating and challenging end to the season!