Sat 19 Nov
Lions welcomed neighbours and old friends Southam RFC to Webb Ellis Road for round eight of league action, writes Player Coach Rob Dignum. Local bragging rights have been fairly even in recent encounters, Lions edging victory in the County cup final and Southam deserving of their draw and win in the league with both teams promoted last season. Prior to Saturday, Lions were seven from seven and Southam on five wins with two narrow losses to strong opposition. Having not played for two weeks due to Rushden crying off in the cup, going into the fixture there was a great deal of uncertainty about the outcome of the game and oodles of pent up enthusiasm from all in the camp therefore.
We spoke of starting well and unsettling Southam rhythm early on; we could not have done it worse if we tried. We turned in our worst half of rugby this season whilst at the same time Southam were slick and efficient, the better side for large parts of the first half.
Their skipper Will Grindal put Southam 0-3 up on eight minutes after the home side attempted to run the ball out from deep, something that had been outlawed in our pre game talk. 19 minutes in and a poor kick was gratefully received, back row Pete Burnell diving in at the corner and Southam deservedly 0-8 in front.
It took a full half hour before we were able to register our first points as we continued to fluff our lines, kick when we should have passed and vice versa; coupled with a determined Southam defence that were hugely effective at every breakdown stealing ball on countless occasions. Joe Higgins, who again enjoyed another productive afternoon, kicked the first of his 14 points with the boot. 37 minutes in and Southam were again penalised to drag Lions back into the game for the first time, just two points behind.
We were glad to welcome back some weighty forwards to the pack and from 1-8, all put in a good shift to dominate their opposite numbers. This dominance was awarded on the stroke of half time as a scrum reset for a third time that was thundering forward collapsed; the official strong and consistent throughout was left with no option other than to award a penalty try to go in at the break 13-8.
Lions nervously exited the field knowing that we had been below par and that Aggy would likely not be in the greatest of moods in the changing room. There was no screaming however, just a calm assertion of what needed tweaking, work harder at the breakdown and stick to the script!
Happily we started the second half much improved, Sam James dotting down on 42 minutes to extend the lead to 20-8. On the hour mark, Sam Herrington took a break from talking to the official and barged his way over from close range to go 27-8 in front. Three minutes remaining Southam’s Will Wood crossed in the corner and added a brilliant touchline conversion, 27-15.
Lions then went on the hunt for the try bonus; on the evidence provided over the previous 79 minutes that score was not likely going to come from the backline, so once again it was left to the biggies to strut their stuff; on 80 minutes and the scrum again rocketing forward, mysteriously collapsing for the fourth time the official again went under the sticks to signal a penalty try on the final whistle, Lions 34-15 Southam.
If we are honest with ourselves, the score line flattered us, Southam were strong and likely deserved more from the game and overall this was not a great Lions showing. Post match there were some glum looking faces, knowing that we should have done more. Quite an odd feeling when you have bagged five league points and won against a good side!
Onwards and upwards, the unbeaten run remains intact and we have learnt a lot about ourselves once again, no doubt stronger for the questions Southam asked of us as we travel to Barker Butts this Saturday.