St Andrews’ sinners allow OLs to claim a thrilling last-gasp success

Tempers fray during the closing stages of OLs' home clash with Rugby St Andrews. Pictures: Tim Nunan

Tempers fray during the closing stages of OLs' home clash with Rugby St Andrews. Pictures: Tim Nunan

  • Midlands Three West (South)
  • Old Leamingtonians 24 Rugby St Andrews 22
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Old Leamingtonians preserved their unbeaten league record after yet another close-fought encounter, this time against Rugby St Andrews.

Within the first four minutes the hosts had conceded four penalties and were six points down.

They began to settle and put some phases together, reducing the deficit with a penalty of their own from skipper Brad James following a ripped turnover.

However, straight from the restart OLs offended again and Rugby re-established their six-point buffer.

OLs offloading game had brief territorial success with strong runs from Brad James and supporting carries by Reece Jones and Joe Talimini. The big second-row stepped the oncoming defence and the home side eventually crossed the line through centre Ciaran O’Connor.

The conversion was missed and, from the restart, OLs’ forward tried to rumble the opposition but infringed again, allowing Rugby to edge 12-8 ahead.

Both sides made probing runs as the break loomed. However, three further penalties against OLs kept them at bay, with a successful kick taking St Andrews into a seven-point lead at the break.

Rugby started the second half strongly and a chip-chase by their experienced winger was rewarded with another penalty as he was deemed to have been blocked.

This time the kick went wide and OLs responded with their forwards and backs running the ball out of defence only to see the final pass intercepted.

Just shy of the hour-mark the home side’s chasing game and aggressive rucking gained a much-needed three points to keep them in contention.

Inevitably, the pendulum swung again with St Andrews’ wily number ten bursting through to score a converted try to make it 22-11.

OLs struck back when Tom Eales charged down a clearance and the ball was swung wide through Talimini for winger Adam Stannard to score in the corner. The kick was missed.

Another penalty from the restart gave Rugby a chance to pull away but the kick was off-target and a further kick was missed after Talimini was sin-binned for a trip in the 64th minute.

Despite being a man down, OLs started using the quick penalty as a weapon and St Andrews also saw a player sent to the bin.

Kai Cott nearly broke the line courtesy of a rolling maul, while a further yellow for the visitors saw them reduced to 13.

OLs pressed again but the crash ball was spilled and Rugby cleared. Play moved to midfield but with Talimini restored OLs took the game on. Rugby infringed again and OLs hit them with waves of crash runners and Rhys Tristan Cory burst over to score. The kick was missed to leave OLs trailing by a point.

Despite OLs spilling the restart, in their desperation to kill time St Andrews infringed again and saw a third man binned to leave them briefly playing with 12 men.

OLs had enough experience to manage the game and exploit the holes, with stand-off Brad James kicking to the spaces and Rugby’s scramble defence unable to plug the gaps.

In the final minutes a chip downfield led to a lineout on Rugby’s 22. From the broken field play came yet another infringement as Rugby players went off their feet at the ruck and James held his nerve to slot over the kick to give OLs a thrilling victory.