Pictures by Mike Baker
Midlands West 2 (South)
Old Laurentians 22 Kidderminster 21
This was a real thriller of a game, and a fine advertisement for club rugby at this level, between two sides going flat out for the win, writes Bill Wallis.
OLs went into the game knowing that nothing short of a win would do, or their league aspirations would be dead in the water.
Kidderminster are enjoying a fine season and lying in second place with 10 wins from 11 before this encounter; OLs were third, but 7 points behind their opponents going into this game, and that gap would have stretched out to unbridgeable proportions had the visitors left with the win points.
When Kidderminster went 21-3 ahead just five minutes into the second half, it looked like curtains for OLs. But they staged a thrilling second half recovery that knocked their opponents back on their heels and ended with the narrowest of wins, finally clinched in the dying minutes.
OLs had the better of the opening period, going ahead early on with a Greg Loydall penalty. But they failed to take advantage of some good field positions, too often losing possession by conceding penalties or by poor handling, the Kidderminster defence not yielding under the pressure.
The visitors had the better of the second quarter, their backs beginning to show their paces, and they went over for two tries in the lead up to half time, each the result of slick handling and decisive finishing by wing Arthur Morgan and full back McLellan. Fly half Freddie Morgan converted both with fine kicks to lift his side into a 14-3 lead.
OLs responded well and one prolonged attack saw Charlie Seager just collared a metre from the line. Penalties were being earned and Loydall had two more kicks at goal, neither straightforward and both missed.
Early in the second half Kidderminster went further ahead through their speedy left-wing Morgan, the other Morgan once more adding the goal points from wide out and the visitors were 21-3 to the good and apparently coasting.
OLs now started to deploy their replacements, Harry Spears became the fourth of this season’s highly successful Colts side to make his 1st XV debut, coming on to play at right wing; and Chris le Poidevin arrived at tight head prop. Le Poidevin’s impact was immediate and from the next scrum OLs heaved their opponents back and won the ball on Kidderminster’s put in; and at the next engagement won a penalty.
OLs were now firmly on the front foot, dominated the final 25 minutes of the game and it seemed just a matter of time before the scores came. Now with plentiful possession going forward, Loydall was running the game at fly half and centres Troy Owen and Ben Roach were punching holes in midfield.
Despite enjoying an overwhelming share of territory and possession, OLs were being held at bay by some dogged Kidderminster defence, albeit at the cost of a string of penalties and a yellow card against the visitors.
Then the breakthrough came 20 minutes in when quickly won ball was transferred sweetly by Loydall, his long pass finding Spears for the wing to round his man and score wide out, just 10 minutes into his debut. The conversion was missed but the margin was reduced to 8-21.
Ben Scott appeared to have got over in the corner but was called back for a foot in touch. Kidderminster were forced into an error at the lineout, and from the following scrum Andy Orbinson picked up the ball at the base and drove over for a try, Loydall’s conversion narrowing the deficit to 15-21.
OLs went straight back on to the attack from the re-start and as the clock ran down went hard for the line again. The sheer power and pace of the attack created the space for prop Olly Cowley to romp over and touch down, to bring the score to 20-21.
This left a tricky conversion for Loydall to win the game, but he nailed it with aplomb for the decisive two points.
It was a team effort, from 1 to 18, that won this game for OLs and a dogged refusal to give up the fight when it appeared to have slipped away from them. It’s now 10 wins from the last 10 league games, the last reversal coming at the hands of Kidderminster in just the second game of the season in mid-September.
Next up is a visit to old rivals Leamington for a league match this Saturday, followed by a return to Kidderminster a week later, this time contesting the Midlands semi-final of the RFU Intermediate Cup. That promises to be a humdinger!