Leamington 8 Old Laurentians 25: Spa give champions-elect a run for their money

Leamington put in one of their best performances of late to give the league leaders plenty to think about in a fine advert for Midlands Two.

Alex Carroll leads Leamington on the attack at home to Old Laurentians on Saturday. Picture: Gina Ruyssevelt
Alex Carroll leads Leamington on the attack at home to Old Laurentians on Saturday. Picture: Gina Ruyssevelt

Leamington began full of energy and when Gareth Shuttleworth broke at pace from his 22 to set winger Ryan Byrne off on a sprint up the nearside flank they laid down a marker to the visitors.

Soon after, Patrick Northover took a quick penalty and unleashed Dan Kane to unsettle the OLs defence.

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Nathan Earland was next to pose major problems for the league leaders with a mesmeric run.

When the visitors began to get to the pace of the game and press Leamington, Earland was on hand to launch a massive kick out of defence to clear the impending danger.

The hosts continued to have the majority of possession and their high-tempo play was making for an entertaining match.

Their set-piece display was equal to anything the visitors could offer and around the park Craig Smith and Matt Patching took every opportunity to drive the ball forward.

One negative for the home side was the number of penalties they were conceding and, as the half-time interval approached, they once again fell foul of the referee’s whistle and Old Laurentians took the opportunity to kick themselves into the lead.

This disappointment was short-lived, however, as the lively Northover broke again, at pace, this time up the nearside wing and found Byrne in support. The Leamington winger has plenty of power and pace at his disposal and used both to force his way over the line for a 5-3 interval lead.

With the first period belonging to the hosts, it was perhaps no surprise that at some stage during the afternoon, the visitors would give some indication as to why they have remained unbeaten in the league to date.

They put together their best passage of play in the opening 20 minutes of the second half and put Leamington under intense pressure.

During this early surge their forwards suddenly found the fluency which had eluded them in the opening 40, unlocking the home defence to score a converted try.

Then Leamington, uncharacteristically, lost lineout ball to present OLs with a tryscoring chance which they gratefully accepted.

Earland kept his side within touching distance of the visitors with a penalty goal and then Mark Baldwin got the Spa supporters cheering with one of his trademark ghosting runs which almost brought reward.

Leamington were doing their utmost to get back on terms and in doing so fell prey to the counter-attack and conceded a final, unconverted, score.