OLs U15s Draw the Season to a Fitting Close
It could be said that a heavy defeat to Syston, nearly three seasons ago, acted as the spur for all of this squad’s recent success. On Sunday the same two sides battled it out in a superb season finale.
On a bright, breezy morning, OLs kicked off with the wind in their favour. The starting forwards were quickly on their game and inroads into the home defence were being made. With barely two minutes on the clock, outside centre, Dom Woolvine was put in space in the midfield. There can be few more devastating open field runners than Dom and he blasted through a gap and rounded the excellent home fullback for a quite brilliant individual score. A Max McCrickard conversion put the visitors into a seven point lead.
Syston tried to hit back immediately, but the wind advantage was making clearances easier and the OLs three-quarters were looking dangerous every time they were in possession. Once more, Dom found himself in space around the halfway mark, this time, as the cover closed in, he found flying flanker, Wahid Uzzaman on the left flank with a well-timed pass. Wazza, much like Dom, certainly knows his way to the opposition’s line and as he squeezed in the left hand corner, the lead was stretched to twelve points.
OLs were soon repeating the dose. Again Dom was worked into space and he glided into the left hand corner, without the need of any additional assistance. A brilliant touchline conversion by Max put the visitors into a nineteen point lead, with barely a quarter of the match played.
All seemed a little surreal, this was Syston on their home patch, surely it couldn’t be this easy? It wasn’t. Syston are a quality outfit and, although stunned by OLs start, were in no mood to lie down. They hit back first, taking advantage of a poorly defended line out to drive over from close range.
Syston’s opening score was against the run of play and OLs still seemed to hold most of the aces. Working their way back up field, they laid siege to the home line, before Wazza drove over for his second try from close range, re-establishing the comfortable lead. However, this was then undone, when OLs failed to organise their kick-chase defence properly, allowing the talented home backs to saunter through for their second score.
As the first half came to an end, OLs again camped themselves on the Syston try line, but a bout of white line fever prevented themselves from entering the break with a comfortable lead.
Halftime Score : Syston 12 – 26 Old Leamingtonians
OLs entered the second half with clear lead of two scores, but Syston now had the wind at their backs and knew how to exploit it.
Rotation of forwards had unsettled the OLs pack and also the temporary loss of pack leader Tom Withers to injury, meant that Syston were starting to dominate possession and field position. As usual, OLs were making their tackles, but they were also allowing themselves to be pulled out of shape in defense. Before long, Syston had exploited this by working the ball quickly to the right flank and crossing in the corner. Although the conversion sailed wide, the home team were now within nine points.
Further adjustments were made to the pack, redressing the balance in forwards. OLs were once again winning good ball, but despite having a clear advantage in the wider channels they seemed insistent on concentrating their attacks in center field, failing to release, in particular, the potent wide pairing of Dom Woolvine and winger Fin McIlwrath. When the narrow attacks ran into heavy traffic, spilt ball was simply kicked back in to the right hand visitors’ corner, using the direction of the wind.
OLs again defended heroically, but Syston’s persistence eventually paid off, as they forced their way over in the same right hand corner, for their fourth try of the match. The deficit was now cut to a slender four points and the Leicestershire side were now firm favourites. Matters became even worse for OLs, when a scuffle broke out in the same corner, which resulted in a yellow card for key player and double try scorer, Wazza Uzzaman. With only five minutes left, the visitors were down to fourteen men and the resultant penalty left them defending an ominous five metre line-out.
So, it appeared that the season had all come down to this moment. Syston’s line-out drive had already proved too much for OLs in the first half, when they conceded their first try. This time they faced the same scenario, but time was dying out and they were a player down. In such times you can find out just what a team is made of.
Syston duly gathered the line-out ball and set themselves up for the drive for the line. However, this time they were met by a huge collective drive from the OLs pack, which turned the tables and shunted the Syston forwards back and into touch. The following line-out was again awarded to the home side, but this time when the ball was set, it was quite brilliantly stolen by OLs loose head, George Minty. The ball was then kicked up towards halfway, resulting in a chase between left wing James Gorvett and a lone Syston defender. James, evoking memories of his recent tour exploits, got there first with a perfectly judged boot. The ball popped up and he fed supporting fly-half Brad Wilks on his inside. Brad, soldiering on despite a bout of ill-timed late season sickness, made ground, before finding blindside flanker Jake Newsome on his right. As Jake was closed down by the desperate Syston defense, he popped a perfectly timed pass to classy center Alaric Haynes, who glided in and dotted down underneath the home posts.
It is perhaps typical of OLs U15s to score possibly their best, and certainly most dramatic, try of the season to the dying moments of the last game, against such vaunted opponents.
Predictably, Max slotted the conversion. A few moments of the match were played out, but OLs had rounded the season off with one of their finest victories.
Final Score : Syston 22 – 33 Old Leamingtonians
We need to give a huge thank you to Syston. Not only for playing such a part in a terrific match, but also for hosting us at short notice, when our own club struggled to do the same. The last two matches between our sides have been immense and we’ll look forward to similar in the near future.
They also produced an excellent Leicestershire society referee, so a big thank you to him too.