RUGBY: Rugby Lions - one win from Twickenham

Rob Walton in Lions' last Vase win at Long Buckby (Picture by Ray Andrews)
Rob Walton in Lions' last Vase win at Long Buckby (Picture by Ray Andrews)
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Supporters urged to fill Webb Ellis Road on Saturday, kick-off 3pm

It’s a big day at Webb Ellis Road on Saturday, when Rugby Lions take on Goole in the national semi-final of the RFU Junior Vase, kick-off 3pm.

If you were there 18 months ago, which of us would have dared to dream of Twickenham being one more win away when a group of players formed the scratchiest of scratch teams and fetched up at the AEI ground to kickstart the season of regular games Lions had to complete to get back into the league structure, writes Alistair Bruten.

But the players did turn up and an amazing number of loyal supporters also came to watch that first game played through a hailstorm of penetrating fury. And Lions haven’t looked back since.

The Rugby Club hope to see their ground as full as possible as they aim to cap a fantastic first season back in league and cup rugby with a trip to Twickenham for the RFU Junior Vase national final in May.

The players are hoping their extra man on the pitch will prove even bigger support than the superb numbers of dedicated fans who have turned up week in, week out not only at home but all over the Midlands as well.

Their opponents Goole, like Lions, have won their league, in their case Yorkshire League 3 with two defeats in 26 games and points totals of 755 for and 249 against.

The two clubs have had rather different paths to this stage of the Junior Vase.

Goole were nominated by their county to participate after just missing out on promotion last season. Cumbria didn’t nominate a club so participants were reduced and Goole were drawn to play Durham/Northumberland 3 side Seaham in a two-leg first round. A 60-5 home win for Goole in November led to Seaham conceding the second leg in February.

This meant Goole only had to beat Widnes side Birchfield of North Lancashire 2 to reach Saturday’s semi-final and this they did by 0-13 on a very small pitch.

This contrasts with Lions who have had to play six games, all against teams from a higher level including two teams at the top of their league when the games were played.

But no one should imagine this game is going to be anything other than a real battle of at least the same difficulty, and probably even tougher, as Rugby’s epic encounter against Long Buckby.

The word is that Goole are very strong throughout the side with very well grooved team routines and support play.

Head coach Rob Walton said: “Having watched Goole play a couple of times, they have shown themselves to be a well organised team in defence. They are prepared to be patient in waiting for their opportunities but then they take them well. 

“We have prepared well without focusing too much on the opposition but on how we will play. Our game plan will not change much, just a few tweaks but hopefully played with more decisiveness and with us being clinical in what we do. And we have trained hard to play harder!”

Lions club captain and player/coach Ian Renard added: “I am looking forward to welcoming Goole to Webb Ellis Road for what is a huge test for our squad. We want to put on a performance for our fantastic supporters who truly deserve it for sticking by us through the good and the bad times. I am hoping the crowd will be our 16th man to roar us on at the Home of Rugby Football.

“We are one match from Twickenham and we will be putting 110% effort in to try and get our club to the final and the chance to play at HQ which will provide a great day out for the fans.

“As a squad we are in a good place as competition for places in the team is strong throughout, which makes for some tough selection decisions for the coaches. I believe we have the resources to perform well in this match with our skills, a blend of youth and experience in the squad and our fabulous support.”

Entrance is £5 with the only concession that under 16s get in free. This is governed by RFU regulations.