THE NEW Midlands 3 West (South) season saw Old Leamingtonians open their campaign with an entertaining 20-20 draw at home to Old Coventrians on Saturday, reports Les Grafton.
There were strong hints of autumn on Saturday as OLs began their league campaign in front of a good sized crowd at Bericote Road.
The early exchanges saw possession swinging in the midfield areas as both teams sought the other’s weakness which caused a number of unforced errors.
After ten minutes yet another spilled ball fell to Old Leamingtonians’ Tom Eales who sprinted 70 metres evading the chasing Coventrians to score the first points of the season, which was converted by Brad James.
Old Coventrians continued to probe the home defence and on 25 minutes a turnover in the tackle allowed them to hack through for an opportunist try which was converted to tie the score at 7-7.
The hosts seemed to be the wrong end of the penalty count for most of the game but the Old Coventrians kickers were frequently off target.
Just before half time a wayward pass was intercepted and evading the tackle the Coventrians poached a second try, which was unconverted.
From the whistle OLs began the second half with continued enterprise trying to run the ball. From a maul infringement OLs kicked to the corner and after two phases from the lineout, centre Tom Hyam surged strongly through the tackles using all his Rugby League experience to score a try which Brad James converted to bring the lead back to OLs at 14-12.
Again this was short-lived with a Coventrians penalty see-sawing the lead back to OCs at 15-14.
After more midfield jousting, OLs high risk rugby resulted in a failure to clear the lines when a kick was the prudent option and they gifted the opposition a 5 metre scrum and a simple try from the set piece. Again this was unconverted so 20-14 gave the home side a target.
A determined chase by Tom Smith from the restart gave OLs forward momentum and forced OCs to offend and James’ boot took the three points.
Continuing to play the more open rugby the next encounter saw OLs ride their luck and this time running out of defence caused another infringement by Old Coventrians within Brad James’ range and he levelled the scores at 20-20 with 10 minutes to go. OCs missed another penalty as the infringement tally rose. Scrum half Toby Lord made good ground from a quick tap-penalty with full-back Ciaran O’Connor chasing the clearance but momentum was thwarted by another penalty and OCs tried a long range kick at goal which again missed. OL’s tried their own long range three pointer but it was the first to fall short in a good display from the boot of Bradley James.
In the last stages the referee sent OL second row Joe Talamini, who incidentally had a storming game, to the bin for an identical short penalty infringement as the one let off in the first half.
A nervous five minutes saw OLs survive the pressure and fortunately Brad James boot kept OLs safe.