Lions secure place in Midlands final
PICTURES BY MIKE BAKER
Rugby Lions 34 Coalville 17
Next up attempting to tame Lions and our unbeaten season were Coalville in the semi-final of the Midlands Cup, writes player Coach Rob Dignum.
Their seventh placing in the adjacent North league belied their motivation to get one over on us, a fiercely determined outfit indeed.
Residing in neighbouring Leicestershire, I have toured with many of their players at various representative levels; they have some wily old heads among their ranks. Powerful and aggressive up front, gargantuan and pacey behind the scrum, they were always going to be a handful and indeed it transpired, robustly committed throughout.
Pre-kick-off, the usual spiel of, ‘Let’s keep the error and penalty counts down’ was quickly thrown out the window as we did everything we said that we were not going to do during the opening five minutes.
Worryingly, we continue to be that very benevolent side who insist on letting teams off the hook with alarming ease. This was intensified by Coalville’s direct no frills approach coupled with a blitz defence that allowed no time on the ball; add to this the tricky playing conditions, the fixture was very much a typical up the jumper January affair with the heavies in the pack prevalent.
Once into our stride, it was a score fest of a first half, six in all, sadly not all ours! Callum Tucker went under the posts 15 minutes in, Joe Higgins adding the simple extras from in front.
Against the run of play, Coalville however were quick to reply; Lions hot on the attack failed to secure a breakdown and once turned over Coalville were quick to exploit a defenceless blindside, their second row and player coach Matt Chamberlin crossing in the corner to reduce the gap.
Thereafter it was all Lions for a spell, Aiden Parkinson crashed over from short range on 25 minutes and soon after Ash Williams finished well after a neat Andy Bowyer grubber kick through, 19-5 and comfortable on the half hour mark… or so we thought.
At this point, one more score and the game would have been in the bag, however a scrum 40 metres out and Coalville’s outside centre a former teammate of mine, Mike Richmond sliced through his opposite number to cross with ease, 19-12.
Moments later, a replica of the previous try, Richmond again breaking tackles and dotting down on the stroke of half time, to go in at the break 19-17.
We really had not done anything we had set out to do; the last ten minutes of the half we were not good by our own standards; cue the inevitable and deserved rollicking.
As the second 40 got underway Coalville had a bit of a swagger about them, buoyed by their spirited finale to the first half, so the next score therefore became increasingly crucial.
At 55 minutes in Lions were again on the attack some 10 metres from the Coalville try line when second row Sam Herrington was issued a yellow card for recurrent getting up the official’s nose; Lions down to 14 men, the game now appeared to be in the balance.
Rather than let this hinder momentum, however, Lions dug deep, Higgins converting three points from in front on 57 minutes. On the hour mark, back row Alex Tansley crashed over in a typically bullish run to put daylight between the sides.
Shortly after there was a momentary scare as captain Chris Wood and fly half Rob Dignum clashed heads… sporting a new designer shiner each and with the blood stemmed, play resumed and it was the same two involved in Lions’ next score.
A Dignum break and offload fed a wonderful supporting line ran by the athletic
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number eight beating the cover to dot down to making the score 34-17. This lead was never relinquished and in a scoreless final ten minutes Lions marched on into the final.
Coalville were good, their never say die attitude made for a good contest. A third of the Lions side look like they’ve overdone it with the mascara and all know that they have been in a battle, Sunday was a long day… made worse by having to pay for a 300 person all night rave party in honour of wife Tara’s big birthday celebrations!
Ultimately this was a good win and likely just what the doctor ordered as we are Worcestershire-bound this weekend to take on in-form Malvern at their Spring Lane home.
Having beaten them 38-10 at Webb Ellis Road, this will likely count for nothing, yet another side very keen to take us on. They have a good home record having only lost once to second placed Silhillians and as such have already begun the tough talk on their website; it should be another humdinger of a battle.
Great time to be a Lion.