RUGBY LIONS: Club make sad return to action

Lions in action at the end of last season          PICTURE BY RAY ANDREWS
Lions in action at the end of last season PICTURE BY RAY ANDREWS

Long Buckby next visitors to Webb Ellis Road

Lions’ pre-season has without doubt been darker, more horrific and sorrowful than most clubs I would think… the wretched loss of player and head coach Rob Walton painfully present among all in the camp, writes Rob Dignum.

He was the kind of man that did not let things get in his way and I guarantee that wherever ‘Yog’ was watching from, he would want business as usual.

The visitors, Midlands One side Kenilworth who have been a strong outfit over the years with whom I have played against many times, with varying success.

Kenilworth were the most genial of guests and were a pleasure to host, the threat they pose on the rugby field however not to be ignored.

Kenilworth are captained and coached by two former Lions, James Wadey and Wayne Morgan who are both well known throughout Warwickshire for their achievements, in short this was going to be a tough first outing for a very new-look Lions squad.

They, two leagues higher than ourselves bought with them a squad of twenty, three players shy of full strength.

Lions conversely opted to give 27 players game time so as to give all that were available a run out.

Sadly, Lions were without many would be regulars with the game being organised at the eleventh hour.

A minute’s applause was respectfully awarded in honour of coach Walton and the game soon got underway in sweltering conditions.

Kenilworth made their intentions clear scoring out wide early in the match to race into a deserved 0-7 lead.

New combinations, debuts and newly tweaked patterns and styles of play took a little longer than one would have hoped to achieve, once realised however, Rugby enjoyed the lions share of proceedings for the second ten minutes.

A well-worked move straight from the training ground saw Josh Lockley feed Jonny Ure to cross in the corner and dot down under the posts for a score of 7-7 at the end of the first quarter.

At this point a very changed Lions fifteen entered proceedings in order to give everyone the opportunity to impress.

Further first team debuts and the opportunity to see players in different positions proved fruitful with all able to keep their heads high at the end of their stint.

Kenilworth worked another three scores in the next two 20-minute periods to lead 7-26 on the 60-minute mark.

Director of rugby Steve King and his assistant Tony Smith, both had a headache in deciding on what would be the most deserving fifteen to take the field in the final quarter, given the strong showing by all in the previous three 20-minute sessions.

Under the instruction to up the tempo and buy into the newly adjusted game plan, Lions again tore into their opponents and were soon rewarded scoring three minutes into the final quarter, Lions 12-26 Kenilworth.

The home pack were ferocious and disrupted Kenilworth at every given opportunity laying the platform for Lions backs who responded in kind by making regular breaks through Kenilworth’s defensive line.

Another Lions score in the corner saw a further five points after multiple phases of sweeping rugby.

Soon after however, the official signalled the final play whereupon Kenilworth happily kicked the ball from the field to end the contest, Lions 17-26 Kenilworth.

In talking to Lions’ colleagues, the opposition and the official post match it was very much a case of ‘just what the doctor ordered’ for all involved.

Kenilworth enjoyed a tough game and were able to start their season well. Similarly, the official enjoyed a strong showing throughout.

And all things considered everyone in the Lions camp can be pleased with their efforts. Many, many positives and with areas of our game to be further improved, we learnt a huge amount about ourselves.

Next up for the Lions; two hugely important training sessions as we continue to gel and get better as a new squad.

On Friday, the rugby is put to one side as we celebrate the life of Rob Walton, his funeral at midday at St Peter’s Church, Hinckley with nigh on the entire club in attendance.

On the Saturday a trimmed down Lions squad look forward to welcoming old friends Long Buckby to Webb Ellis Road for the next pre-season run out.

I am fairly sure they will be out for retribution; the last time we met was at the end of the 2013-14 season to contest the RFU Midlands Vase Final at their Station Road home.

An hour into that game Lions were dead and buried and staring at their first loss, 14-38 down only to come back to 38-38 on the final play, forcing extra time and running out 38-41 victors… how? I still do not really know!

This is one not to be missed and we invite one and all down to enjoy both the rugby and the hospitality of Webb Ellis Road.