League survival out of their hands
Midlands 1 West
Old Laurentians 12
Sutton Coldfield 69
When you are in urgent need of league points to stave off the threat of relegation, you don’t need to be facing a team of the quality of Sutton Coldfield in your last game of the season. But this was OLs task, made considerably more difficult by the absence of half of the regular team on the club tour in the USA.
An already tough undertaking was made worse by late withdrawals from the selected line-up, but the team that took to the field on Saturday did the club proud before succumbing to the superior pace and power of the league runners up in the second half of this game.
When Sutton’s right wing David Edwards followed up a shrewd Rowlands kick to go over for a try after just four minutes, it looked ominous for OLs. But they fought back strongly, enjoying parity of possession and territory, and number eight Stuart Eborall ran in an equalising try after a sustained attacking spell on the ten minute mark.
The score stayed this way for the next twenty minutes, when Sutton’s Dean Harper was on hand to finish off a drive for the line from a lineout on OLs 22, Rowlands converting his try to give the visitors the lead once more at 12-5.
Undeterred, OLs went back on the offensive and a sustained attack looked promising until a slack pass on Sutton’s 22 was intercepted by Edwards who had a clear 70 metre run to the line to touch down. Half time was reached with no further score and OLs could consider themselves unfortunate to be 5-17 down.
But the effort required to keep their opponents in check in the first half had sapped OLs stamina as Sutton stepped up the pace after the break. As well as putting OL’s makeshift pack under heavy pressure in the set pieces, Sutton’s big front five began to enjoy the space that opened up, all of them running and handling like centre three quarters.
This gave Sutton’s Nathan Burchell the openings he thrives on and the left wing ran in a second half hat-trick of tries. Their highly mobile second row forward and skipper Steve McCormack added a brace and there were also touchdowns for Rayner, Ward and Tweedie. To rub salt into the wounds, Sutton replaced one quality fly half, Rowlands, with another, Dan Poulton, who added five second half conversions.
But OLs had the last word when Ted Wallis took a quick penalty in Sutton’s half and the ball was transferred swiftly via Carruthers and Eborall to full back Grant Inch, who scythed through the cover to touch down under the posts, Ben Roberts converting his try and heralding the final whistle.
Prop Chris le Poidevin had another fine match, scrummaging strongly and carrying the ball to great effect; and Stuart Eborall again confirmed what an asset he has become in the back row. A new half back pairing of Ted Wallis and John Carruthers worked well, Carruthers constantly looking to get on the front foot and test Sutton’s defence. Thrust into action as an emergency second row pairing were prop Richard Hayes and flanker Andy Orbinson; and another flanker, Dom Hammond, did duty as hooker for this match to demonstrate his versatility.
OLs were grateful to Jack Boulden and James Orbinson who had both travelled back from university to answer the call for players; and Ben Wiles came off the bench for his first match action for some time and immediately made his presence felt.
Having finished their league programme, OL’s future in Midlands One now hangs on the outcome of this Saturday’s match between OL’s relegation threatened rivals Nuneaton Old Edwardians and Bournville, when a win for the 3rd placed Birmingham side will preserve OL’s place in this league.
Pictures by Ray Todd