41-22 victory lifts Saints to fourth in the league
PICTURES BY MIKE BAKER
Midlands 3 West (South)
Rugby St Andrews 41
Old Leamingtonians 22
A second successive six-try haul and a 41-22 winning scoreline would suggest that this was a one-sided encounter, but this was certainly not the case. A clearly fired up Old Leamingtonians had provided a stern examination of Saints’ defensive abilities for some 45 minutes over which they held a distinct advantage in both possession and territory.
However a combination of resolute defence and their repeated indiscipline restricted them to just a couple of tries and a penalty before Saints finally found some continuity to take the lead for the first time after an hour and then add three more tries in the final quarter.
Saints welcomed back two recognised locks in Brandon Glover and Scott Randle plus winger Ben Steele, allowing Spencer Brown to move to full back. With Matt Rudd injured Kyle Smith started at prop for the first time and ‘Flinty’ Lister came onto the bench.
Leams started confidently and enterprising play created a well take converted try after just four minutes. Saints’ first attack forced a penalty at the breakdown, the first of many.
Ryan Taylor took the points but his side was finding it difficult to sustain any momentum in the face of some robust and frequently illegal work at the breakdown. However a deft chip behind the rush defence landed in goal for an unchallenged touch down, which was surprisingly ruled a knock-on and the danger was cleared.
Saints’ fringe defence was tremendous, restricting OL’s drives to inches, not yards. Both sides lost a man to the bin but neither could take advantage. According to the referee the remainder of the half remained scoreless, having omitted to record the penalty goal kicked by Ryan Taylor right on the 40th minute, although this was not revealed until after the game.
Old Leams again began strongly and good interplay produced their second seven-pointer, followed by a simple penalty, to open up a 17- 3 lead.
Saints belatedly found some fluency. A second visitor was yellow carded and some of his colleagues were beginning to struggle with the pace of the game. This time Saints capitalised with three tries in an eight-minute period. Quick hands and good running lines paved the way for winger Ben Steele’s try. He added a second when Ryan Taylor tapped and ran a mark deep in his 22. Spencer Brown and Ran Scott continued the move and then swift recycling put him over in the corner. Bryn Jones then finished off a forward drive with a stretch to the line. Ryan Taylor slotted the conversion to edge Saints into a 23-17 lead.
Old Leams’ defence was becoming increasingly desperate. Three consecutive penalties set up field position for a lineout drive which moved infield before slick transfers on the widening blindside put Spencer Brown over for the bonus-point try.
He added a second when scrambled possession from a set scrum was converted into a scoring opportunity courtesy of good vision and safe hands. To their credit Leams responded with a period of pressure which resulted in a second yellow for Saints and a pushover try. With two minutes to play they threw caution to the wind in an attempt to secure a consolation try bonus .
Trying to run out of deep defence they lost possession and arch poacher Ran Scott was on hand to pick up and crash over. Ryan Taylor added his fourth conversion to complete a remarkable turn around. The win moves Saints up to fourth place in the table, equal on points with Shipston in third but with a slightly inferior points difference. Will that missing three-pointer come back to haunt them at the end of the season?
This week they travel to Old Wheatleyans who are probably the most unpredictable side in the league, capable, on their day of upsetting anyone but currently with only one win to their credit. Saints struggled to beat them in Coventry last season, having previously run up 50 plus points at home. To underestimate them would be dangerous.
2nd XV: Saints seconds were edged out 22 -19 in a close game against Old Leams. There was little to choose between the two sides but the game swung in favour of the home side when Saints lost the influential Gaz Curtis and Jason Warren, both of whom have only returned this year after recovering from serious injuries.
Saints’ Colts returned to league action against high flying Barkers Butts and produced another encouraging display. With half a dozen of their more experienced players currently unavailable the under 17s have stepped up and performed really well at this much more demanding level.
They matched Barkers in all aspects of the game and were tied at 10 all for much of the match. Barkers finished more strongly to win 27-10.
This week they make the short trip to Webb Ellis Road to play Rugby Lions, who are also looking for their first league win. Last season the sides shared the honours with one win each. A full blooded local derby is anticipated.
Saints Vets will also be in action, hosting AEI at John Tomalin Way.