Leamington 22 Old Leamingtonians 8: Leamington gain the local bragging rights with Smith’s defensive heroics the inspiration

Craig Smith prevents Ciaran O'Connor touching down for OLs.
Craig Smith prevents Ciaran O'Connor touching down for OLs.

Leamington claimed a four-try bonus-point win over their near-neighbours, but it was a moment of defensive magic which lit up the home side’s victory.

Early in the second half, with the visitors having the better of the play, Leamington lock forward Craig Smith pulled off a dramatic, try-saving tackle on Ciaran O’Connor that upstaged his side’s stunning victory.

Leamington began the game in confident mood and their solid pack formation was instrumental in an all- important, early score. They won turnover possession and spread the ball quickly, with full-back Nathan Earland making the incisive cut inside and racing in to score.

James Robertson slotted over the conversion.

Leamington maintained their momentum and continued to pile pressure on the visitors.

Matt Patching, back in the number eight shirt, used his power to good use with some bulldozing runs and Tom Greevy and Smith made sure the home side competed in the lineout.

The pack delivered the second score as Smith claimed the ball in the lineout and set his side up for a drive to the line. Unable to cope with the force of the charge, Old Leamingtonians found themselves pushed over their line with Greevy getting the touchdown.

Robertson was just off target with the conversion attempt.

OLs responded with an attack up the far wing, which almost caught the home side out. However, the speed of the passing seemed to flummox OLs as they lost possession when almost at the try line.

Leamington’s Patrick Northover quickly retrieved the situation and allowed Robertson the chance to send a deep kick into touch.

The big crowd were getting good value in this intriguing affair and before the half-time whistle Leamington had one last bit of magic up their sleeves.

Winger Jamie Harrison broke out of defence at pace and linked up with Northover and Danny Ruyssevelt, whose slick pass found Ryan Byrne on the wing. The power and pace of Byrne outwitted the visitors’ defence and he raced in to score to give Spa a 17-0 interval lead.

Leamington had certainly edged the first period, having had the bulk of possession and the best scoring chances and they began the second in the same manner with Northover and Tom Daplyn setting Greevy up for a charge.

They then created a superb opportunity as Byrne opened up the visitors’ defence and found Harrison in support. Good defensive work from OLs stemmed the attack and they turned over possession.

As they raced out of defence at breathtaking speed, a try looked the obvious outcome but no one had accounted for Smith whose diagonal sprint from distance resulted in him bundling O’Connor into touch.

It was to prove a defining moment in the game as the visitors were now playing with confidence.

Robertson had to be on hand to clear his lines with another huge kick.

However, the visitors kept up the pressure with a penalty from Brad James and a try from Reece Jones to pull themselves back into the contest.

Mindful of OLs’ recovery, the hosts were doing their utmost to retain their grip on the game.

And they eventually put the game to bed when Earland broke clear and sent out a perfectly timed pass for Jamie Harrison to race in.