RUGBY: Old Laurentians host Old Saltleians in promotion play-off

Dan O'Brien kicking for OLs in the league title decider at Newbold earlier this month
Dan O'Brien kicking for OLs in the league title decider at Newbold earlier this month

Big game at Fenley Field tomorrow (Saturday), kick-off 3pm

If Old Laurentians are to play their rugby in Midlands 1 next season they have a considerable hurdle to clear this Saturday when they take on Old Saltleians to decide who will join Newbold and Bridgnorth in the league above, writes Bill Wallis.

Old Laurentians' supporters will be hoping the team can gain promotion this time. Another huge crowd is expected at Fenley Field

Old Laurentians' supporters will be hoping the team can gain promotion this time. Another huge crowd is expected at Fenley Field

OLs have the major advantage of a home draw as a result of a better playing record this season than their opponents, who were runners up to Bridgnorth in Midlands 2 West North. They also have a psychological edge over the visitors as they came away as winners from Old Salts’ Water Orton ground when the sides last met in May 2010 in a play-off game that saw OLs win promotion to Midlands 1.

Like OLs and Newbold in their division, Bridgnorth and Old Saltleians dominated their league this season, finishing well clear of the rest of the field. Old Salts lost just three times in the league with two of those losses coming at the hands of unbeaten champions Bridgnorth, giving an indication of the size of the task facing OLs. They have also been remarkably consistent in recent years as this will be the fourth time in six seasons that they have contested the promotion play-off, starting with that loss to OLs, but so far without success. They are ambitious and won’t be lacking motivation.

OLs expect to be selecting the same squad that did duty in the championship decider against Newbold two weeks ago, with one major exception. Glenn Todd suffered a serious arm injury in that game and has since had an operation for a ruptured bicep tendon. Glenn has been an outstanding player, and captain, for OLs over recent years but has had appalling luck with injuries, the latest occurring only five weeks after coming back from another long layoff. Consequently he has announced his intention to retire as a player and if he sticks with that decision he will be a major loss to the club. But the hope is that he will continue his association with OLs, possibly in a coaching capacity.

On the plus side, Liam Deery is expected to be available after returning from injury and will be a very useful replacement for Todd if selected as he can double up as number 8 and prop forward. League regulations require that two front row replacements must be named in the four allowed for this game.

Action from the title decider against Newbold, Iain Wallis in possession

Action from the title decider against Newbold, Iain Wallis in possession

OLs expect a large crowd at Fenley Field for this vital game, which kicks off at 3pm, and will be opening an outside bar to cope with the expected demand; and there will be a barbecue running all afternoon.