Victory over Belgrave opens gap over chasers
Midlands 2 East (South)
Old Laurentians 19
Laurentians were forced to fight all the way by a determined and spirited Belgrave side before they could claim the win points from this match in which the result was in the balance right up to the final whistle, writes Bill Wallis.
OLs had their forwards to thank for this result, notably the front row who claimed the three tries that sealed it.
OLs welcomed back Chris le Poidevin, who made one of his occasional appearances in the absence of Olly Cowley and the prop was prominent from the kick off, skilfully claiming a kick ahead and making yards as he ran it back.
A feature of OL’s play this season has been the certain source of possession provided by their lineout and with Ben Anderson, Ben O’Riordan and Rob Corrigan all featuring in this match that phase of play was again secure and led directly to all three tries scored.
The first came after just five minutes’ play, OLs piling on the pressure straight from the start and earning a penalty that Jon Bean kicked to within a few yards of the Belgrave line.
Anderson took a clean catch, the pack drove unstoppably to the line and Mark Todd claimed the touch down, converted by Jon Bean for 7-0.
OLs lost wing Grant Inch to injury after just ten minutes, bringing Ben Scott on for his first game for two months before Belgrave hit back with a try after OLs spilled the ball in midfield. The home side’s backs moved the ball quickly away, taking advantage of poor defensive alignment to slice through for a simple try.
OLs restored their advantage after 20 minutes after an O’Riordan catch at a lineout just outside the Belgrave 22, demolishing the home pack to drive the ball right through to their line where Mark Todd claimed his second try, due reward for a good all round display by the prop. The conversion was missed but OLs were now 12-5 ahead.
Belgrave then turned the tables by taking a lineout close to OL’s line and working the ball over in the corner. The conversion attempt was wide but the home side were right back in the game just 12-10 behind.
Five minutes later OLs claimed their third try, again from a lineout and with a well executed set play close to the home line.
OLs feinted to throw long but O’Riordan made the catch at the front and flipped the ball back to Dom Hammond in the five metre channel, the hooker going over in the corner.
Bean added the goal points with a fine kick from near touch and OLs were 19-10 ahead, looking comfortable and eyeing the bonus point as half time arrived.
When Belgrave added a penalty to their score 10 minutes after the break it signalled a sea change in the pattern of the game as the home side went on to become the dominant force in the second half.
OLs featured intermittently but more than once squandered good opportunities when possession was lost or knocked on.
Their cause was certainly not helped by the yellow cards handed out to Bean and Troy Owen, their principal midfield backs, and having to play for 20 minutes with 14 men.
Even at full strength the back line was not functioning smoothly and OL’s potential match winners on the wings, Jordan Bunn and Ben Scott, saw little of the ball, although Bunn took advantage of Belgrave errors for two long forays into their half, both held by scrambling defence.
Although under heavy pressure at times, OL’s defence held out, narrowly on a couple of occasions, to ensure the win points and maintain second spot in this highly competitive league.
With no game this Saturday, OLs next game is at Fenley Field on March 4 when Luton are the visitors.
OLs pulled off a stunning win at Luton in November when the home club were still league leaders and they have endured a poor run of results since then to slip right down the table.
They had a good win against Oakham last Saturday, however, and will want to continue that upturn in their fortunes so it is unlikely to be a straightforward task for OLs.