Well-deserved bonus-point victory over sixth-placed side
PICTURES BY RAY ANDREWS REPORT BY DAVE RUSHALL
Midlands 1 East
Rugby Lions 31 Towcestrians 20
Rugby Lions welcomed Towcestrians to Webb Ellis Road in the latest round of league fixtures, writes Dave Rushall. In sharp contrast to the reverse fixture back in November, Rugby had a full side out apart from the unavailable Sam James and Charlie Paxton.
The game turned out to be a thrilling affair with both sides intent on running the ball at every opportunity.
Lions began brightly with some lovely handling but were unable to break the visitors' strong defensive line. Lions had two opportunities from throw-ins five metres from the line, but were denied by handling errors. Following their first excursion into home territory, it was Towcestrians who were first to trouble the scorers when their lively scrum half dived over unopposed following a five metre scrum. The conversion from wide out struck the upright.
The arrears were reduced with a penalty by Rickie Aley shortly after. Then followed one of the best tries scored by Rugby in a long time. A chip into the corner by Dave Weston just dribbled over the try line to enable the defender to touch down. The drop out was sent long and was fielded by Rickie Aley deep in his own half. Numerous phases followed with seemingly every Lions player involved until Chris Wood broke clear. He slipped the ball to Kris McFedries and then onto Martin Wood. He was tackled 15 metres out but was able to offload out the back of his hand to brother Chris who gleefully dived over the line under the posts. Aley converted to restore Lions' lead.
The visitors responded strongly and a well-worked backs move allowed the right winger enough space to score in the corner. Again the conversion attempt failed to find its mark to leave the score tied at ten all at half time.
The second half did not start well for the home side and a lost ball allowed the big visiting number eight to score in the left corner for an unconverted try. With the breeze at their backs, however, Lions were able to pin the visitors deep in their own half for much of the remainder of the contest.
A three to one overlap for the home side allowed Alex Tansley to wriggle through to touch down near the uprights. He took exception to a late hit whilst on the floor and handbags were exchanged. Aley converted following a stern word by the referee, and the game was restarted with a penalty to Rugby for the misdemeanour.
Towcestrians' line out was proving to be a major problem for them with Rugby pinching many a ball to allow them to keep the pressure on the visitors. With the forwards pounding at the try line, the ball was shipped down the backs' line to Louis Smith, who was two metres from the line. He was halted by a high tackle which should have resulted in a penalty try and a card for the culprit. Only the penalty was awarded, but it did allow a period of intense pressure by the Lions and eventually Andy Morrison managed to worm his way over for a well-deserved try. Aley continued his impressive place kicking to extend Lions' lead to 24-15.
Another spell of intense pressure by the forwards resulted in the bonus point try for Alex Tansley and the win was secured. Aley converted superbly once again. In a rare visit into home territory, the visitors went looking for their own bonus point try, and some uncharacteristically weak tackling allowed the score in the left corner.
Lions played out the last few minutes of the game in Towcestrians' half to complete a very impressive performance and secure a much deserved five-point victory.
Next week Rugby visit Wellingborough, who are only three points ahead of the Lions. Kick-off time is 3pm.