RUGBY PICTURES: Old Laurentians v Kettering

Turning point in OLs’ fortunes?

Midlands 1 East

Richard New tackles for OLs against Kettering, supported by Ben Anderson (no 4) and Andy Coleman

Richard New tackles for OLs against Kettering, supported by Ben Anderson (no 4) and Andy Coleman

Old Laurentians 7

Kettering 64

Although the final score may suggest otherwise, OLs coach Stuart Birch saw this match as a turning point in OLs fortunes this season, writes Bill Wallis.

It certainly didn’t look that way when the visitors, league leaders and the only unbeaten side in the division, ran in seven tries to lead by 45-0 after half-an-hour’s play.

Richard Parker in action at Fenley Field on Saturday

Richard Parker in action at Fenley Field on Saturday

But OLs responded with a well-taken try on the cusp of half time and kept their opponent scoreless for 30 minutes until tiring in the dying stages of the game, when they conceded three further tries.

OLs were strengthened by the return after injury of Reiss Boon and Marc Eagles and started brightly, only just being held out when they threatened to overturn the odds and score first. But once Kettering crossed for their first try it was one way traffic for the next 30 minutes.

Ryan Cleaver was the latest to make his first-team debut for OLs this season, the young fly half looking very much at home in this company and turning in an assured and polished performance. The son of former OLs star Adie Cleaver, he formed what must be one of the club’s youngest ever half back pairings with Reiss Boon and together they promise much for the future.

As half-time approached OLs scored a try of some quality, direct from a scrum on halfway. Right wing Jordan Bunn appeared on the end of a fluent movement going left and chipped ahead to comfortably win the race to touch down, Boon converting with an excellent kick.

The half-time talk from coach Birch clearly had an impact in the second period, as for 25 minutes OLs were very much the equals of their opponents. Their defensive organisation was far better, full back Richard Parker pulling off some vital tackles as the last line of defence; and the midfield trio of Cleaver, Eagles and Paddy Reid took every opportunity to take the game to Kettering.

The pack turned in a sterling performance, yielding little at scrums and lineouts. After many seasons at OLs, Richard Hayes finds himself as a first-team regular for the first time at prop and again put in a full 80-minute stint.

Aaron Metcalfe was a rock at tight head and the returning Richard New again combined effectively with Ben Anderson in the second row to ensure lineout parity.

In the absence of injured skipper Olly Cowley, Mark Todd has taken on the captaincy in the most difficult circumstances and continues to be an enthusiastic and committed leader of his team.

# This Saturday OLs make the long trip to Market Rasen and Louth for their next league fixture, the first-ever meeting between the clubs. The Lincolnshire side have made a steady start to the season and sit in mid table with a won two, lost two record.