Old Leamingtonians hang on thanks to late penalty miss

Tom Smith on the rampage for Old Leamingtonians. Picture: Morris Troughton
Tom Smith on the rampage for Old Leamingtonians. Picture: Morris Troughton

Old Leamingtonians enjoyed the best of a very competitive game of rugby played in good conditions with both teams demonstrating total commitment. It was a clash of two distinct gameplans with OLs electing to run the ball whenever possible and Woodrush opting to play a kicking game to seek territorial advantage for their heavier pack to exploit.

With a light wind at their backs, OLs took the game to Woodrush from the start.

The pressure paid off after seven minutes when, following good handling among the three-quarters, full-back Andy Vennard overlapped to outrun the Woodrush defence and score wide out on the left. Stand-off Brad James converted to give OLs a seven-point buffer.

Woodrush then conceded a penalty in the loose and James again converted to push the lead out to double figures.

The game evened out at this stage and Woodrush, utilising the long kick, began to put pressure on the home defence.

Following a series of mauls the visitors scored with a pushover try that was converted.

Further pressure from Woodrush saw OLs having to defend in their 22 for some time and it was no surprise when the visitors scored a second try, also converted, to put them into a four-point lead. This was increased to seven when OLs conceded a penalty just inside their own half which the Woodrush centre converted.

OLs responded well and on the half-hour the home forwards took control. After a long spell in the Woodrush 22, the visitors’ defence was breached when their heavier pack was forced back over the line for back-row Tom Heslop to touch down for an unconverted try.

OLs’ commitment to running rugby was then rewarded with the best try of the game.

A long kick was fielded by OLs deep inside their own half and was run by both forwards and backs with the ball changing hands numerous times before winger Adam Stannard outstripped the Woodrush defence to touch down.

The conversion was narrowly missed but OLs took a 20-17 lead into the interval.

The second half followed the same pattern with Woodrush playing a long kicking game and the home side looking to keep the ball alive.

It was Woodrush’s approach which garnered the next score when, after a period of pressure on the home defence, they scored a converted try to edge in front by four points.

The two sides remained evenly matched but OLs’ lighter forwards were beginning to gain the upper hand and, after a series of mauls in the visitors’ 22, Joe Talamini and Tom Heslop forced the ball over for Talamini to claim the try.

OLs entered the last ten minutes with a slender one-point lead but they should have added two more tries, giving the ball away when it seemed easier to score. And they were nearly made to pay for their wastefulness in the dying moments when the Woodrush kicker, who had missed nothing all match, pulled a penalty wide.