RUGBY Lions’ young talents gave the club a welcome fillip by hosting an international match.
The first senior game of the season at Webb Ellis Road was contested by a mixed age group against an exceptional and experienced Colts side from Chile, who were visiting as part of their end-of-season tour to the UK and Ireland.
With a new senior friendly side yet to take to the field following the winding up of the company formed to run the club by businessman Mike Aland, the youngsters embraced the task of representing the birthplace of the game.
The pitch was in excellent condition for the game and the match was played in bright sunshine.
The international visitors were Craighouse School of Santiago, a bilingual (English and Spanish), co-educational private school.
The visitors fully lived up to their pre-match billing - their season is just ending and they have only lost one match so far.
This is even more impressive considering that many of their games are played against sides from Australia and New Zealand.
On the field they were excellent in every department and it was no surprise to later discover that their significant players at 8, 9 and 12 represent Chile at under-20 international level.
Lions were fielding a much less experienced XV, due mainly to work and study commitments of their older (under-18 and 19) players.
This left the selectors with mainly under-17s players who have only this season emerged from the minis and juniors.
Club spokesman Chris Hartny-Mills said: “Lions’ composite team performed with great credit against much larger opponents and given the sheer size, speed and excellent organization of the older opposition, all the young Lions on display can take great pride in their level of performance, skill and commitment.
Right from kick-off Craighouse attacked relentlessly, thoroughly testing Lions’ defences both through the forwards and then from either wing.
The one real weakness in their game (sealing off the ball carrier at the breakdown) produced a rash of penalties, which allied to some determined last-ditch defending, kept the match scoreless for the first 20 minutes.
The first score came when Craighouse kicked diagonally through Lions’ defensive line for their winger to score wide out and they finished the half dominant in both possession and territory to score three further high quality tries for a 20-0 half-time advantage.
Lions continued to perform with courage and skill after the break but even so, Craighouse scored three further converted tries to complete the scoring.
However Craighouse didn’t have it all their own way and Lions finished the last 15 minutes in all-out attack.
But for the unfortunate mix of Craighouse’s excellent defence, the occasional Lions error and finally sheer bad fortune, the host side could and perhaps should have scored several tries of their own.