A superbly intense and incident-filled game saw Rugby Lions win the RFU Midlands Junior Vase final 41-38 at Long Buckby, after extra time having trailed 32-14 early in the second half with one of two yellow-carded players still in the sinbin, writes Alistair Bruten.
It had taken a sensational last-ditch innovative added-time try by prop Tom Kilburn followed by a nerveless conversion from wide out by Gareth Bott to give Lions the reprieve of going into extra time.
Kilburn showed his awareness of the laws from bitter past experience to run round to the rear feet of a back-pedalling Buckby ruck controlling the ball behind their tryline, where there can be no offside ruling. Tom knew that and thankfully so did the referee.
From the left and into a blustery wind, Bott then struck the conversion that sent the huge Lions support into raptures because their Twickenham dream was still alive.
The final score of the game came in the second minute of extra time following two penalties in succession awarded to Rugby after the opening half hour of the game had seen them losing out 8-2 in penalties.
But Bott kicked this penalty and Lions were just about able to stop Buckby scoring with the home side’s Nathan Maddox contentiously judged to have not got the ball down to score as they twice ignored overlaps on their left from 5-metre scrums. Lions defended heroically and at the final whistle both teams had prone bodies strewn about the pitch after every player on both sides had given their all.
The Long Buckby club did a brilliant job in hosting the game with great efficiency but also with superb hospitality and a generosity of spirit that was hugely impressive in every respect and much appreciated.
This was a setting and this was a contest that spoke volumes for the quality of rugby in the area and for a revived Rugby Lions the joy with which they celebrated with the cup and with their supporters showed just what it meant to everyone associated with the club.
The RFU Junior Vase national semi-final will be played on April 19 at Webb Ellis Road against Goole. The winners earn a place in the final at Twickenham.
PICTURES BY IAN SPENCER AND RAY ANDREWS
Read Alistair Bruten’s full view of the game in the Advertiser (March 20 edition)