Stewarts & Lloyds earn bonus win they needed for promotion
Midlands 3 East (South)
Stewarts and Lloyds 45
Rugby St Andrews 6
Saints’ late surge up the league table on the back of five successive wins came to an abrupt end at the hands of promotion chasing Stewarts and Lloyds who needed a bonus point victory to overtake Vipers for the second promotion slot.
With their most powerful and experienced scrummagers unavailable Saints had to call on a young lightweight pack to compete against what is generally acknowledged to be the strongest set of forwards in the league. It was an unequal contest from the outset as they were driven back at the first scrum and lost injured prop Carl Watton with only two minutes on the clock. The visitors were totally dominant in the forward exchanges enabling them to control possession and territory resulting in four tries in a 20-minute spell and a half time lead of 24-6, thereby virtually ensuring themselves the necessary five points.
A semblance of order was restored even though Saints continued to live of scraps of possession and most of this was on the retreat. Ryan Taylor added a second penalty and the back division created a number of half chances but were then let down by poor handling.
The defence held out well until the final quarter when they lost a second prop to injury and a player to a yellow card. The visitors seized their opportunity clinically with two push over tries against a depleted pack and added a third from turnover ball at another scrum.
This chastening loss leaves Saints in fifth place in the league which is a creditable performance from a young developing side who were down in ninth place at one point in the season. It also highlights the standards they need to attain if they are to challenge for promotion from this highly competitive league, when they renew rivalries with promoted Long Buckby and relegated Rushden and Higham and Boys Brigade OB, who will be joined by Oundle, a completely new side to Saints fixture list.