Laidlaw stars with the boot as Park down the Students
Rosslyn Park were too strong for the bottom team in the National League One running out 38-19 winners over Loughborough Students in a game where the result was rarely in doubt.
First blood was Park’s after only six minutes when they attacked down the left flank, a panic clearance kick was parried and winger Dom Shabbo seized the ball before anyone else could react, sprinting in to score out wide. Ross Laidlaw nailed the conversion for 7-0.
Loughborough replied on 11 minutes with their first real incursion when number eight – former Park and Wasps man Joe Burton – spotted space and forced his way over against his old club.
The conversion was missed, but the visitors had put down a marker that they were not here to make up the numbers.
The concession of a try only spurred Park on. The tireless Luke Campbell ran, buffeted and burrowed through the defence to set up field position in front of the posts, the ball was worked right to set up a maul right on the visitors’ line and Hugo Ellis forced his way over. Another outstanding conversion from Laidlaw made it 14-5.
Both sides were playing entertaining open rugby, but it was Park who had the edge again when the visitors were forced to concede a penalty, which Laidlaw hammered to the corner for a throw.
The drive was again stopped illegally and a quick tap penalty saw prop Will Bigley crash over in the corner - this time the conversion, from a tough angle, was missed.
Loughborough made a mighty attempt to counter, forcing Park to defend brilliantly, though at the cost of two penalties and a five metre scrum.
The defence, though, held solid until the visitors were penalised for crossing and the danger was cleared.
Park launched a devastating counter up the right, working the ball across the middle but the chance went begging when an overlap on the left was spurned for an attempt to go over by the posts.
The pressure continued, and a visiting scrum close to their own line saw a clearance kick parried.
Park grabbed the ball and worked it swiftly across the field for winger David Vincent to use his speed to get past the defence into the right corner to gain the four-try bonus point on the stroke of half time. Laidlaw’s kick shaved the outside of the posts, bringing half-time at 24-5.
Early in the second period, Park forced a penalty, kicked to the corner but messed up at the lineout.
The visitors were under such pressure that at their scrum that they conceded a penalty.
Their defence held firm until a clearance kick fell to Vincent, who started a move through several hands that ended with Ellis running up the left, defying attempts to tackle him, to score in the corner and set Laidlaw yet another challenge. This one he made look easy for 31-5.
No one had told Loughborough they were effectively out of the game and they set up a series of raids close to the home line and eventually prop Keiran Brookes barrelled his way over, fly half Stuart Hall converting for 31-12.
Loughborough continued to try to get back into the match, but their goose was well and truly cooked when Park turned over possession, worked the ball quickly to Vincent who streaked away before passing on to Ellis, who found Charles Broughton on his shoulder and the centre sprinted in between the posts for 36 -12.
Laidlaw had by now been substituted by last season’s Loughborough fly-half Sam Katz, now working in London and playing for Park, and he put the last nail into his old mates’ coffin with the conversion for 38-12.
Loughborough were not quite done. In the last minute they scored the try of the match when scrum half Jordan Brooks broke out of his own 22 and found full-back Craig Holland in support on half way.
Holland hit the gas and even David Vincent could not catch him as he streaked to the line.
Hall’s conversion brought the final whistle at 38-19.
Park rise to second place in the table, but the fact that Loughborough stay anchored to the bottom shows what an amazingly strong league this is.
Park travel to Macclesfield, second from bottom, on Saturday.