Busy start to revival year

Rugby Lions v Birstall
Rugby Lions v Birstall

Rugby continue their busy start to the New Year with a game at Webb Ellis Road on Saturday against Hinckley 4ths, kick off 2.15pm. The following week sees them at home to Paviors 2nds from Nottingham.

Rugby began January with a match last weekend against Birstall from north of Leicester that was only confirmed on Thursday so there was no chance to give any notice of the game in the paper.

However, word of mouth, the club website, the Rugby Advertiser website and RugbyFM were effective enough for another good crowd to turn up including, slightly late of course, Eddie Saunders and his wife Lorraine.

And everyone was rewarded with a really good game.

Birstall gave Rugby a shock by turning up with not only the 2nd team as expected but their 1st team too – “Oh, well, neither of our sides had a game so…”

For a scratch Rugby team again short of a full matchday squad who have generally relied on getting ahead and hanging on as injuries and lack of match practice take their toll, the idea of the opposition having nearly 30 players to rotate was ominous.

But Birstall were a good bunch, lent Lions a couple of players to boost their numbers and made do with a dozen replacements in the dugout.

After 12 minutes, Birstall led 0-12 and it looked worrying. Of course, results are not the main point of these games but big defeats would sap the enthusiasm of the players whose willingness and spirit the club is so dependent on this season and who in this game included a fine mix of former senior players like Rob Milner and Ben Everton and some very talented youngsters who injected pace and skill into Lions’ play.

And it was a Lions Under 17 Colt from last season, James Scott, who brought the game to life with a rapid break down the right wing towards the cricket nets corner. Support at the breakdown led to a series of short passes over to the left wing and eventually Rugby found the space to score a great try for 5-10 just into the second quarter.

Despite the arrangements of lending players before the game, on the pitch it was all extremely serious and needed the control of Guy Steele-Bodger’s refereeing as well as the physio attendance of Guy King.

At half time, Lions trailed 10-15 but going into the final quarter their excellent play had taken them 27-15 ahead.

In the end, perhaps the imbalance of player resources took its toll and two late Birstall tries made the final score 27-27.

Rugby: Rothwell, Borg, Dymek, Bannister, Cranham, G Bennett, Milner, S Bennett, Hill, Everton, Fuller, Warman, C Bennett, King, Scott

n Among the Rugby squad for last Saturday’s game alongside the likes of Rob Milner, who is nearing 100 Lions first team games, were some much younger players from the club’s Under 17 Colts squad of last season, which was coached by Des Holmes.

It is hugely encouraging that not only were there four players making very significant contributions to Rugby’s performance but, if it wasn’t for illness, two others would have played as well.

Those who did play were James Scott, Rich Bannister, Ben Warman and, ever-present this season, Tom Fuller. Add Sam Bennett and here are the young players whom I was asked about by supporters throughout the game as each of them made blinding breaks, intelligent passes or essential tackles.

These players, and some others who have not yet played for Rugby this season but who would be assured of a warm welcome if they returned, were picked out by Neil Back and Andy Key last season for training with the senior squad this year if things had gone as hoped.

The two ruled out by illness were James Saunders, head boy at Lawrence Sheriff School, and Kyle Webster of Ashlawn School.

These young men - and others in the current Rugby Under 17s Colts squad coached by Mike Jones, Sean Deery and Blake Sporne - could form the core of an extremely exciting squad for Rugby’s return to league rugby come September if all goes well.

n The Rugby & District team, with very strong Rugby Lions Colts representation, play a warm up game this Sunday at OLs with a 2.15pm kick off.

n The details of the meeting between Warwickshire RFU secretary Charlie McGinty and the club have now been released.

Twelve games need to be played against at least four different clubs with RFU voting status to maintain Rugby’s membership and voting status with the RFU.

For consideration to be re-entered in the Midlands League structure, Rugby need to play rather more games, something approaching 20 in total including both home and away fixtures.

The club also needs to show they have appropriate facilities, a functioning committee and a sound financial structure and to make their application by April 1, 2013.

Mr McGinty said that Warwickshire RFU would support Lions’ application if the criteria can be shown to have been met.

Then the default position is that Rugby would enter the Midlands League structure at the bottom level unless other considerations suggest a different entry level would be appropriate.