RUGBY: Lions through to last four of cup

Nervous finish against Oadby Wyggestonians

Thursday, 8th December 2016, 5:30 am
Updated Wednesday, 14th December 2016, 12:51 pm
Ash Williams tackling, with Andy Bowyer and Sam James in the background PICTURES BY RAY ANDREWS

RFU Midlands

Intermediate Cup

Oadby Wyggestonians 27

Sam James at Oadby

Rugby Lions 29

Rugby Lions’ latest outing saw a break from league action and the prospect of taking our unbeaten record on the road to Oadby Wyggestonians RFC in the quarter final of the RFU Midlands Intermediate Cup, writes Player Coach Rob Dignum.

Wyggs have been resurgent in recent years, now quite a force at level seven in our adjacent league; indeed all we knew of them was that they had beaten top of their table Peterborough away from home in their first league outing by a similar score to ourselves when we travelled there in an earlier cup round.

Lions were again without several key personnel, in the pack hooker Paul Fowkes and Josh Lockley injured, absent from the backline, Jerry Turagabeci and Dan Forde.

Alex Tansley in Lions' cup win

Joe Higgins, who has enjoyed an exceptional season at scrum half to date moved to stand off, Jack Brenchley started at nine and there were welcome returns to Andy Bowyer and Adam Attenborough wide out.

Lions boasted plenty of strength among their substitutes with Demo Gonsalves, Zack Higgs and Dave Bunting all eager to play their part.

After a rare under-par win away to Barkers last week, we were keen to put that one to bed and move onwards and upwards; a strong Wyggs outfit would provide perfectly stern opposition to get the show back on the road therefore. For the first forty, we were good, taking the game to Wyggs and dominant all over the park.

Camped deep in Wyggs’ territory Adam Attenborough was the beneficiary of a good platform laid by the pack and swift handling along the backline saw Adam dive in at the corner for an early 0-5 lead.

Sam James at Oadby

Shortly after hooker and find of the season, Charlie Paxton smashed through from close range to extend our lead, 0-10.

Sadly, we were guilty of missing three or four opportunities; these via a mixture of stout Wyggs’ defence that was right on the line and beyond; some interesting officiating and in equal measure, our own failings to recognise the overlap and give that crucial final pass.

Had we taken these chances we would have been away; indeed we enjoyed so much dominance we felt that we were well up, alas, the scoreboard not quite supporting this. Late in the half, Wyggs knocked over a couple of penalties for a half time score of Wyggs 6-10 Lions.

Despite the closeness of the encounter, there was relative calm at half time as we felt very much on top. Cue our usual benevolent tactics of making the game close in order that the crowd get their money’s worth!

Alex Tansley in Lions' cup win

Two minutes into the second half with us again hot on the attack, Wyggs’ winger gratefully plucked the ball from the air to intercept and race in from 60m out; good finish albeit massively offside, 13-10 to Wyggs.

In weeks gone by this may have prompted team blather; not so on this occasion, just a calm awareness of what was required.

The response was immediate as Sam Herrington barged over from a catch and drive line out for us to retake the lead, 13-15. The pack were now very much on top with Alex Tansley making his trademark bullocking runs straight into and through the heart of Wyggs ‘D.’

A penalty try in favour of a Lions scrum that was racing toward the line when their nine kicked the ball from under Captain, No.8 Chris Wood’s controlling feet put some breathing space between the sides, 13-22.

Shortly after the hour mark, Sam Herrington grabbed his second after further good work from backs and forwards alike to move down the field to put us 13-29 in front.

Home and dry? Not quite! Having done a decent job of keeping Wyggs’ stocky centre pairing at bay, from the bottom of a ruck I watched helplessly as my opposite number, their inside centre barged past three would-be tacklers to bring the game back to 20-29.

With a minute remaining and throwing the proverbial kitchen sink at us, Wyggs’ second row crashed over wide on the left, the extras added and a two-point difference meant a nervous final few seconds of the game, holding on for a final score of Wyggs 27-29 Lions.

A strange one really, a complete first half, charitable second forty and unpromising officiating conspired to leave mixed emotions. Sounds a wee bit arrogant, not intended, ten minutes into the game it all felt relatively comfortable and a feeling of we are not going to lose palpable all about the squad, how therefore Wyggs made the game more of a contest than it should have been comes as a bit of an irritant; alas the overriding emotion being jubilation and into the semi-final we go, 13 wins in 13 outings.

Interestingly, the four sides remaining in the competition likely says something about the strength of our respective league. 48 teams from four equivalent divisions compete for the Midlands Cup, three of the four semi-finalists coming from our league; would have been all four but for Earlsdon’s narrow loss away to Coalville; the likelihood therefore, we are going to play familiar foes again sometime soon.

This week sees a return to league action as we host fourth-placed Berkswell. They have only lost two games to second and third respectively and, as ever will prove a severe threat to our season’s ambitions. We look forward to seeing you at Webb Ellis Road for the last home game of the year and a Crimbo-themed post match knees up; kick off 2.15pm.