Still fifth but starting 2018 adrift from promotion chasers
PICTURES BY RAY ANDREWS
Midlands West 1
Melbourne 20 Rugby Lions 17
With the Melbourne pitch in Derbyshire unplayable, Rugby Lions’ latest league encounter was switched to Nottingham Trent University, writes Dave Rushall.
The home side kicked off, won the ball, and Lions’ recent habit of conceding an early try continued with Melbourne’s no. 5 strolling over unopposed in the right corner for a converted try.
Lions responded well with a series of strong runs from the pack and Alex Tansley stormed over under the posts following a line-out in the left corner. The conversion from Dave Weston tied the score at 7-7.
Lions were down to 14 players soon after Sam James was shown a yellow card following over-exuberant use of the boot in a ruck.
This did not deter the Lions as they continued to apply the pressure and were rewarded with a penalty by Weston after the home side pulled down a maul.
Melbourne were pushing the bounds of the off-side law to the limit without punishment and ironically it was the Lions who fell foul of the referee’s interpretation.
Following a great clearance kick by Weston, who gained 50 metres with the ball going into touch, the referee bizarrely deemed a Lions player to be in front of the kicker, and presumably interfering with play. The resulting touch kick and line-out led to another offside decision against the Lions in front of the posts to level the score at half time.
The second half continued in a similar pattern with Lions continuing to have the upper hand in possession and territory, but unable to break Melbourne’s resolute defence, with handling errors and wrong options not helping the cause.
A chip by Weston into the left corner led to a penalty and a line-out five metres out. A trade-mark catch and drive was called for, but the throw was long and the jump mistimed.
The ball was hoofed clear andin trying to keep the ball in play, the defender touched the ball to give the throw-in to Melbourne inside Lions’ 22. Lions defended the sniping runs from the home side well, until a tackle on their diminutive scrum half was deemed high and a penalty awarded in front of the posts to put them in front.
Lions were back attacking in the home 22 again, when a lost ball was booted clear to gain 50 metres for the home side.
With the Lions trying to run the ball out of defence, failure to retain possession resulted in a chip to the corner and a converted try near the uprights for Melbourne. A classic lesson in how to take your limited opportunities.
If the killer instinct was missing for the Lions, you could not fault their effort, and a series of drives near the home try line resulted in Stuart Lee squeezing over under the uprights. Weston converted to reduce the deficit to three points and keep Lions’ hopes alive.
With Lions again trying to find gaps in Melbourne’s defence, they were rewarded with a rare penalty for not rolling away on the half way line.
With the referee indicating time up, Lions had the choice of going for goal to tie the score, or put the ball in touch and go for the try.
They opted for the latter, but the kick failed to find its target and the gleeful defender ran the ball out to end a frustrating game for the visiting players and supporters.
Following the seasonal festivities, Rugby Lions will resume their campaign with a visit to Moseley Oak on Saturday, January 6, kicking-off at 2.15pm.