Lions lack biteSat 25 Mar
Proud Coventry side Barkers Butts RFC arrived at Webb Ellis Road last Saturday with just one away win to their name; Lions conversely seven points clear at the top, unbeaten at home and needing three wins from four remaining games to be promoted as league winners. Add to the mix Barkers are eleventh in a league table of a dozen sides and staring relegation in the face, then a Barkers win would be an accomplishment of mesmeric proportions, writes Rob Dignum. If I have built this up in suitably dramatic fashion, then the result might therefore rock you as much as it did us, Lions 26-29 Barkers… and fair play to them, they deserve every plaudit going.
In the home camp, I have never heard quite so much tosh talked in the build up, with one side automatically promoted, second going into a play off and two sides relegated, prior to Saturday, the table took this form:
1st Lions (77)
2nd Spartans (70)
3rd Silhillians (70)
10th Old Ed’s (27)
11th Barkers (26)
12th Dunlop (1)
Very much fighting for their lives, Barkers were therefore never going to roll over. Such was the shock, my phone was off the hook Saturday night with angry former teammates, now at Old Ed’s, all crying foul at the result. Well, as we pick away at the egg plastered all over our face and take our medicine, I reiterate, well played Barkers. They were without doubt worthy winners, better drilled, more motivated, more organised, slick at set piece and the breakdown and keen as mustard to get themselves out of the mire. We Lions conversely, squabbled, forgot how to tackle, lacked desire and application, got outmuscled and generally got what we deserved.
In beautiful spring weather amidst glaring sunshine and a stiff breeze Lions raced into a 12-0 lead with usual scorers Sam Herrington and Alex Tansley both barging their way over in typical fashion. Psychologically, this start was possibly the worst thing that could happen, as for the remainder of the game Barkers were hungry, and Lions were poor.
Their first score came with ease their speedy winger simply rounding his man. Scores were level soon after as Barkers backline teased Lions pack, bouncing four of our bulkiest players and would be tacklers. Shortly before the break, flimsy tackling again allowed their eight to stroll under the posts for Barkers to lead 12-19 at the break.
Head Coach Aggy, a former Barkers player rightly questioned the desire and mental strength of his players and demanded more than had been given in the first forty.
Midway through the second half, good quick hands put Dave Weston into space who drew the Barkers last defender feeding Daniel Ford for a simple run in, 19-19. After this Sam Herrington again crossed for Lions to lead 26-19. Dave Weston was unlucky to miss a penalty attempt to put the game out of reach before, as last week, at 38 years young, in keeping with Vets rules, I am afforded 70 minutes of rugby and became a spectator again for the remaining ten minutes as Barkers crossed out wide through non existent defence and with around two minutes remaining took further advantage of yet more lifeless defence to score a replica in the corner to lead 26-29. In the remaining few minutes, we managed to ignore 3v1 and 2v1 overlaps and still had a chance to rather undeservedly nick it at the death, Adam Attenborough seemingly clear and flying down the wing only to be smashed into touch. Cue the final whistle and Barkers leaping skyward in celebration.
Nervously we huddled in the centre of the field to take our medicine. A shoddy and lacklustre showing that cannot and will not be repeated anytime soon. All the usual clichés offered, ‘They wanted it more’ etc. none of which I buy into; nobody in the history of the game sets out to lose and play poorly, but we did both, in spades. In contrast, Barkers were inspired and we wish them well against Sil’s and Spartans as they continue to try and salvage their season.
Us, well… having enjoyed large parts of the season, it would be a crying shame if the wheels were to come off now. Currently, we are four points clear at the top with just three games remaining. Two of these are stinkers and are going to take every ounce of spirit, we as a squad can muster. Our destiny is quite simply firmly in our hands, no further slip ups and we are league winners… play like this again and we won’t be.