RUGBY SLIDESHOW: Old Laurentians' play-off hopes ended by Luton

Pictures by Mike Baker

Midlands 2 East (South)

Luton close in on Luke Townsend

Luton close in on Luke Townsend

Old Laurentians 0 Luton 28

OL’s chances of making second place and the promotion play-off were just about alive before this game but were killed off comprehensively by a Luton side who are now firm favourites to take that position, writes Bill Wallis.

Not a good time to lose to Luton for the first time in four games over two seasons, but the visitors were comfortably the better side on the day.

OLs were in part the architects of their own downfall, presenting two crucial scoring opportunities to their opponents, gratefully taken, one in added time at the end of the first half and again in the last play of the game at its end.

James Orbinson against Luton on Saturday

James Orbinson against Luton on Saturday

OLs started brightly enough and were attacking with some purpose when they conceded a penalty, a fault they were to repeat too often for comfort.

On their first foray into OL’s 22, Luton scored a simple try after ten minutes when their scrum half sniped around the fringes of an attacking scrum and strolled over. The next score didn’t arrive until the 35th minute, when the visitors converted a penalty for 8-0.

Then a killer blow was delivered as the first half went to added time and after OLs won a scrum deep in their 22.

A clearance to touch would have heralded the referee’s whistle for half time, but instead a hopeful long punt downfield was fielded by Luton’s full back, who, with acres of space in front of him, took full advantage to run the ball back and set up an attack that finished with a try in the corner.

James Collins evades a tackle

James Collins evades a tackle

Instead of turning round just 0-8 down, OLs were now 13 points adrift, but still in the game as the second half got under way.

The first score after the break was going to be crucial and it fell to Luton. A late tackle on a Luton player after he had kicked infield on half way brought a penalty where the ball landed, duly put over from 35 metres out to increase the deficit to 0-16.

Now with tails up, Luton took charge of the game, running straight and hard with their passing and offloading game testing OL’s defence to the full. This was in stark contrast to OLs who, although enjoying a decent share of possession, struggled to put together any coherent attacking play, too often taking the wrong option or let down by indifferent handling and failing to take advantage of the pace they have on the wings.

With 20 minutes gone, Luton breached OLs defence down the left flank to score in the corner, a well struck conversion lifting their lead to 23-0.

Ash Moore, back in the 1st team after a long injury lay-off, with Olly Cowley

Ash Moore, back in the 1st team after a long injury lay-off, with Olly Cowley

That did provoke a late flurry by OLs but their cause was not helped by suffering two yellow cards, with one to their opponents.

OLs did work their way into Luton’s 22 and had a lineout following a penalty.

The ball was won but not controlled, Luton were quick to turn it over and broke away to score in the right- hand corner, again exposing some flimsy defence. The score brought up Luton’s try bonus point and the whistle for full time.

For OLs, the back row of the Orbinson brothers and Charlie Seager put in a massive shift to try and get their team going forward and in defence; and a welcome sight was the appearance from the bench in the second half of Ash Moore, his first action for the senior team after a long injury lay-off dating back to last November and immediately making an impact with some strong carries. Just like last season, this one has fizzled out in a disappointing end after promising much. But OLs could still finish in third spot by winning their last two games.

This Saturday they travel to take on Market Bosworth and finish the season when entertaining the side currently occupying third place, Market Harborough, the following week.