But 2nd XV win their friendly with skipper Nick Martin in charge for last time
Saturday 21st April 2018
Midlands 2 East (South)
Old Laurentians 23 – Market Harborough 38
Report by Bill Wallis
Fenley Field saw a highly entertaining match on Saturday that would have been enjoyed by the neutral observer as much as the numerous Market Harborough supporters who had made the trip. Referee Chris Watkins clearly enjoyed it too, remarking that after the passing of a shower early in the game and the appearance of the sun it seemed to inspire both teams to play sevens-style rugby that put his fitness to the test!
After the lead changed hands several times in the first half, Harborough took the lead early in the second, but twice OLs hauled themselves back into contention before the visitors finally drew away in the last ten minutes. It was the sum of small margins in favour of the visitors, who were just that much quicker in thought and deed, that swayed the game in their favour and clinched 3rd place in the league at the expense of OLs.
Robbie Bunn gave OLs an early lead with a penalty, but they failed to claim Harborough’s re-start kick and after switching play quickly in both directions Harborough outflanked the defence to touch down in the corner for 3-5.
Just five minutes later, centre Troy Owen lacerated the Harborough defence in a break that took him 40 metres into enemy territory where he found Ben Scott steaming up on his outside, the wing going over in the corner. Robbie Bunn added the goal points with a fine kick and OLs were 10-5 ahead.
Harborough had the edge in the tight in this period, forcing several penalties in this phase and from one they went over in the corner to level the score at 10-10.
In the lead up to half time, OLs were taking the game to their opponents and attacking well, but more than once passes were misplaced or not held and they failed to add to their score. They were made to pay in added time at the end when Harborough broke away on the left flank for a well taken try, converted for 10-17 at the break.
Once more OLs were the prominent side in the early part of the second half and forced two penalties, both coolly kicked by Robbie Bunn, to reduce the deficit to 16-17.
But Harborough struck back from a scrum on half way, their impressive scrum half looped around his number 8 before scything through some ineffective tackle attempts to score under the posts from 40 metres out, the try converted for 16-24.
But OLs refused to roll over and with 22 minutes gone Ben Roach put in a great kick deep into Harborough territory and Luke Townsend got up to harass the defence. Possession was won and after several thrusts for the line were held, fly half Jon Bean took quick ball to waltz through the defence for a fine try, Bunn converting to bring up a 23-24 scoreline with the game nicely balanced.
But that balance was upset with ten minutes to play when Harborough stole an OL’s lineout and worked the ball out to the left. The ball was kicked towards the line and broke nicely for the following wing to get the touch down, the try was goaled from wide out and suddenly Harborough were clear again at 23- 31.
As game neared its end and after a long clearance kick found touch on Harborough’s 22, a quick throw in found OLs napping and the ball was moved swiftly away and quick hands and strong running saw them go over again in the left corner, another excellent kick from wide out bringing up the final score.
OLs had played a full part in an entertaining game and it was the all-round excellence of the Market Harborough team that won the points for them. The net result is that OLs slip down to 5th, overtaken by Belgrave who won their game at Stamford to move up, a disappointing end to a season that at times had promised much for OLs.
However all is not gloom in the town and heartiest congratulations are offered to Rugby St Andrews who, after a number of near misses, made it in style to be promoted as champions from Midlands 3 West. It raises the fascinating possibility of OLs and Saints meeting in the league next season after all the promotions and relegations are sorted and the leagues, East and West, take shape. Both clubs have moved between east and west in recent seasons and it needs just one to be moved again for the possibility to become a reality.
Old Laurentian 2nd XV 36 - Market Harborough 2nd XV 20
Report by David Middleton
OLs welcomed Market Harborough to Fenley Field for their last game of the season and ran out worthy winners. They started at break neck speed as the forwards tore into their opposite numbers, carrying the ball strongly and recycling it quickly to allow the back line to exploit the spaces, Sam Miles, Nick Martin and James Harris all featuring prominently in the early stages.
OLs opened their account after some fine interplay took them half the length of the field for Jordi Pocknell to claim the score, powering over from close range and Sam White adding the conversion.
Immediately from the re-start Miles once again carried strongly and in almost a carbon copy of the first score it was skipper Nick Martin who this time forced his way over, White again adding the extras.
OLs at this stage were looking as good as they had all season, the centre pair of Luke Billyeald and Richard Parker creating havoc in midfield, under the direction of Esworthy and White at half back, and after another strong break through midfield it was skipper Martin who was on hand to claim his second try of the game running an excellent support line, the conversion falling just short.
As the half, which OLs had controlled completely, drew to a close Harborough showed they were still up for the fight as their strong running centre danced through some flaky tackles to register his side’s first try of the game.
The second half began as the first had for the home side as they once again carried strongly, recycled quickly and when the ball found Billyeald with half a yard of space the centre made no mistake touching down out wide, the extras again just falling short.
Harborough then had their best spell, their lively back line skipping round tackles as OLs seemed to forget that you have to defend as well as attack. This led to two unconverted tries for the visitors to bring them back into the game at 24-15.
OLs then scored the try of the match, the forwards once again laid the foundations with more strong, direct running, the ball was then worked out to centre Richard Parker who cut inside the first defender and headed for the corner. The Harborough defence seemed to have all angles covered as they put in a double tackle but individual brilliance from Parker saw him find an unbelievable offload to Colonel Esworthy who raced in at the corner, White adding an excellent touchline conversion.
OL’s final score of the game came from Billyeald who again showed how dangerous he is when given space as he scythed through the visitors defence to claim his second try of the game, the conversion again just falling short.
Harborough claimed the final score of the match as more suspect defending allowed them to score in the corner and with the conversion missing the afternoon’s scoring was complete and OLs had a well-deserved victory to level up the results between the two clubs.
This was a fine all-round team performance with skipper Nick Martin leading from the front in his final game as 2’s captain.
A mention should also go to the new front row of Andy Collins, Juan Nobez and Michael Gold who were unmovable in the set piece, James Melvin who once again tackled himself to a standstill and the back three of Mikey Walsh, Ollie Jones and Tom Steatham who were always a threat with ball in hand.