Action from Fenley Field on Saturday against Olney
PICTURES BY MIKE BAKER
Midland 2 East (South)
Old Laurentians 5
Fenley Field looked at its best on a lovely Spring day and was teeming with people well before kick-off, as OLs’ Mini & Junior Section were staging a Family Fun Day and they turned out in their hundreds for a great event, writes Bill Wallis.
Mini players formed what must have been the biggest ever guard of honour for the teams when they took to the field for the last league game of the season and although the result was not what they came to see, the sheer number of boys and girls who turned out was enormously encouraging for the future of the club. The sight could only give great satisfaction to the handful of people who first set up OLs Minis some nine years ago when just 25 aspiring players turned up on the first day, a number that has grown to over 300 now, from micros to a highly talented Under 15 squad.
It was a pleasure to welcome Olney for their first ever visit to Fenley Field. They are one of the oldest clubs in England, having been founded in 1877 and have played without a break over the following 140 years. This season their team has been on an impressive run since early December, losing only to league champions Peterborough along the way and arriving with an outside chance of securing second place and a promotion play-off. But for the first 40 minutes it was OLs who dominated both possession and territory, the game played almost entirely in the visitors’ half.
But OL’s play, at times fluent and threatening, lacked real penetration and Olney’s defence was secure and determined, although the number of penalties they conceded in the early stages indicated that their efforts were not entirely legal. Kickable penalty opportunities were spurned in favour of going for the try, which finally arrived after 17 minutes following numerous near misses. A lineout throw was taken by Rob Corrigan who flicked it back down to Dom Hammond, the hooker going down the 5-metre channel to score.
The pressure continued and Troy Owen was stopped by a high tackle as the line loomed, the sanction being a penalty when it could have been more. From the penalty, quick hands down the line finished with Charlie Seager sending Ollie Jones away but the full back was caught just a few yards short. OLs were missing the finishing power of their first-choice wings, as both Jordan Bunn and Ben Scott pulled out with injuries during the week, and couldn’t find that second score which would have made their position more secure.
Instead, it was to be Olney who grabbed the next score with just a couple of minutes to go before half time on a rare foray into OLs’ 22, a crucial score that got them back into the game, and the break was reached with the teams all square at 5-5.
The visitors’ pacey three quarters had threatened on a few occasions in the first half and as their team gathered momentum in the second they had more opportunities to demonstrate that threat. The game was much more even after the break as Olney took every opportunity to bring their dangerous backs into play.
OLs were reduced to 14 men and Olney took full advantage to send their full back away for a try under the posts, duly converted to break the deadlock and give them the lead for the first time at 5-12 after 22 minutes of the second half. OL’s wing Miles Feeney was the missing man after getting caught at the bottom of a ruck and, somewhat groggy as a result, was shown a yellow card for not rolling away as he was helped off!
Now with tails up, Olney added a third try six minutes later to quell any hopes of an OLs come back; and earned a bonus point with a try in the last play of the game.
The lesson from this defeat was a clear one. If you don’t take the chances you create when on top and allow your opponents to stay in contention, you are likely to suffer against a good side.
This result meant Olney finished in third place in the league behind Oundle, who made sure of the play off place that OLs were occupying just a month earlier. OLs have spent three of the last seven seasons in Midlands 1 and after the last two relegation seasons have bounced straight back in the following campaign, so are no strangers to the challenge presented by the higher league and had targeted promotion as an attainable objective again this time round. Thoughts now turn immediately to planning for season 2017/18 with promotion again the target.