Pictures by Mike Baker
Midlands 1 East
Rugby Lions 28 Old Northamptonians 3
Lions welcomed Old Northamptonians to Webb Ellis Road for the latest round of league fixtures, writes Dave Rushall.
Having lost heavily 48-5 in Northampton back in September, Lions were looking to maintain their much improved form over recent weeks.
The first half was a scrappy affair, and Northamptonians took the lead following a chip ahead from their centre which bounced into touch.
For some reason, the lineout was awarded to the visitors, although the ball never got anywhere near a Lions player. A penalty was awarded following the line-out and the visiting fly half converted for a three-point lead.
Lions players were frequently falling foul of the referee’s interpretation and when they eventually were awarded a penalty in a kickable position, they opted for the kick to touch, and the catch and drive.
This looked to be a good choice, as the catch was taken and the drive was on. This was pulled down however,and the resulting scrum awarded to the visitors.
Lions pulled level following a high tackle with Dave Weston slotting the penalty. The Lions were gaining the ascendancy in the pack, and another penalty gave them a slender three-point lead at half time.
The first try came early after the restart, when a lovely long pass by Dave Weston found James Faulkner in a bit of space.
He shipped the ball right to Louis Smith who managed to dive over the line in front of the clubhouse, despite having three opponents to contend with.
The conversion attempt from the touchline narrowly missed the target.
Daniel Parrington received the ball on half way and set off down the line in typical fashion. He beat five players before he was halted just inside the visitors’ 22 metre line.
From the resulting ruck, the ball was shipped left with Martin Wood and Andy Morrison combining to free James Faulkner to score in the left corner. The difficult conversion was missed to leave Lions in front 16-3.
Northamptonians continued to run with the ball at every opportunity, but Lions’ defence was solid and they failed to make the home 22.
Lions were gaining the ascendancy with the visitors looking to tire, and a driving scrum looked to have resulted in a pushover try, but this was denied by a knock-on.
Rugby were playing some lovely rugby at this stage with strong runs from Alex Tansley, Weston and Faulkner especially.
The visitors were being pinned deep in their own half for long periods, and desperate clearance kicks were failing to find touch, which meant that the ball was being run straight back at them.
Weston found Sam James in a bit of space and he drew two defenders before slipping the ball to Andy Morrison in front of the clubhouse. He cut inside the tackle from the fullback and managed to slam the ball down one-handed for Lions’ third try.
With all the tries being scored in the corners it made the conversions difficult for Dave Weston, and this one drifted narrowly wide again.
Rugby were now hunting for the bonus point try and putting the visitors under severe pressure. With time almost up, more strong running from Weston, followed by a number of strong drives reached the shadow of the uprights.
Sam James, Louis Addleton and Lewis Moult were inches short before Tansley picked up at the base and you don’t stop him from three metres. With the conversion in front of the posts, Weston slotted the ball over to end a very entertaining contest.
Another much-improved performance from the Webb Ellis Road side, who remain 11th in the table.
This Saturday Lions travel to third-placed Oundle for a 2.15pm kick off.