Second half revival so close to a win over Leamington
Midlands 2 West (South)
Old Laurentians 20
OLs travelled to Leamington’s Moorefields ground to meet another of the league’s form sides but with hopes high of continuing their own excellent run of results. As well as the league points on offer, this was the inaugural match between the clubs for the Brian White Memorial Trophy. Brian died suddenly last year and had been a long time stalwart of the Leamington club as well as a close friend of OLs, and the teams served up a match full of drama and excitement that he would have enjoyed.
OLs didn’t turn up for the first 40 minutes as Leamington, inspired by half backs Northover and Carroll, completely dominated the game.
With the home back row tearing into anyone wearing green, OLs barely ventured out of their own half and appeared to have no idea on how to break the stranglehold. Just eight minutes had passed when Carroll put a teasing kick deep into OL’s territory and Northover sniped over for the opening try from the lineout that Leam pressure forced the visitors to concede.
Then Northover put over two penalties in quick succession to lift the score to 11-0 as OLs continued to fumble their way through the game, uncertainty compounded by basic errors.
Then on the half hour mark, Carroll latched on to an over ambitious OL’s pass and ran unhindered for 50 metres to touch down, Northover converting for 18-0. With no further scoring before the break, OLs turned round slightly fortunate that their hosts weren’t completely out of sight.
It was now OL’s turn to enjoy the slight slope towards the clubhouse at Moorefields and for the next 35 minutes they were a team transformed. Just as Leamington had done for the first 40, they were relentless in their pressure and dominance, scoring three excellent tries to come back from 0-18 to lead 20-18.
First fly half Jon Bean opened OL’s account with a penalty just three minutes into the half. Then on ten minutes, and following quick lineout possession, centre Iain Wallis broke back inside and found Ollie Cowley on his shoulder, the prop going over for a try that Bean converted well to reduce the deficit to 10-18.
OLs were now completely in charge and Bean was planting some well-judged kicks into the corners to keep the pressure on. From one, Leam were harried into conceding a lineout and OLs took a quick throw but a defender intercepted it. His clearance kick was fielded by Ben Wiles and the full back threw a long pass infield to Simon Bayliss, OL’s wing arced outside the defence before straightening to score a fine try and the margin was reduced to 15-20.
Five minutes later another strong drive by OL’s pack gave Bean the chance to explore a wide blind side before sending Bayliss on his way for his second try, giving OLs the lead for the first time at 20-18 with just ten minutes to go.
With just six minutes remaining Leamington reached OLs 22 for the first time in the half and were awarded two penalties in quick succession. OLs held firm as Leam attacked from the first, but they opted to take a scrum from the second.
This phase of play had been even throughout, but on this occasion the Leam pack put in a mighty heave, OLs appeared to lose concentration and were trundled back towards their line. OLs attempted to snaffle the ball illegally, leaving the referee with no option but to award a penalty try, Northover converted it and Leamington had snatched the lead back. They stayed cool as OLs attempted to hit back over the remaining minutes and held their advantage to the final whistle to claim the win.
Pictures by Ray Todd