Midlands Cup Final: SilSat 18 Mar

Having won each of our Midlands Cup Finals in Lions most recent period of resurgence and having beaten Saturday’s opponents twice already this season, we could be forgiven for hoping for some success in this tournament, writes Player Coach Rob Dignum.
You may have already guessed it, we fluffed our lines in spectacular fashion and we are all mortified, the Twickers dream is gone. This is only a small part of the story however, as Sil’s were spectacular, the gale-conditions were dour as was any rub of the green we might receive.
If I was a smarter man a knew my sports psychology I would bottle the stuff and sell it, as our game had many parallels with the Ireland England game, not that I think we are England you understand. Sil’s and Ireland were both going to be huge obstacles last Saturday, and so they proved.
2016-17 has been a mixed bag, we have been privy to every performance known, sublime, moderate and awful; the one thing that has been consistent all season is our inability to deal with pressure and with handling officials in the correct manner. Saturday we did not deal with the pressure applied upon us by a rejuvenated Sil’s with five players that did not feature a fortnight ago at ours. They needed no further motivation and they were worthy winners, on the day the better side. It must also be mentioned that it would be putting it mildly to say we did not deal with and I can say with some certainty, we will not be featuring on match official Matt Astle and his team of officials Christmas card list. They likely did not arrive to a splendidly decorated Sil’s ground as non-Lions fans, they might well leave with that notion however; this demonstrated by his dishing out three yellow cards and one red to Lions players. You simply cannot win a game having seen four cards. If we got under his skin, then no doubt so to did the Lions support… to those who mindlessly chanted, “We are top of the league” and jeered when he and his team collected their medals post match; please do not come and support us again.
Sil’s got underway as expected at a thunderous pace, playing with a stiff breeze at their backs. Returning scrum half Tom Lee, effective all game chipped over the Lions backline for his flying brother Matt to dot down in the corner, 7-0 inside five minutes. This was quickly backed up by a simple three points from in front, 10-0 to the Lee brothers in as many minutes.
Playing into the wind, with copious amounts of penalties awarded against us; most just, some confusing, add to this an inspired Sil’s meant that Lions territory and possession was sparse, indeed I stood at first receiver and touched the ball a handful of times all game. In one of few forays into Sil’s half and during a spell of rare patience from a flustered travelling side, Sam Herrington crossed for 10-7. Other points of note in the first forty, we stunk, Sil’s did not, Lee bagged a further three points and Alex Tansley was the first Lions players to be ordered to report to the naughty step on the touchline by the officials; half time Sil’s 13-7 Lions.
We have been behind many times; second forty, nay bother, we will play with the wind behind us and up our game… not so! Early in the second period Lions took the lead, Josh Lockley capped another fine display sprinting over, 13-14. Next it was Sil’s to regain the lead, a panicked wayward pass in midfield, Sil’s other flyer, wing jack Hobbs sprinting over in the corner, 18-14.
The game was now a topsy-turvy affair with finger nails being nervously chewed. Dav Nurse was the latest Lions player to see yellow for a tip tackle as his opposite number jumped over him. Shortly after, Sam Herrington received his marching orders for playing the ball on the floor; this all before good hands by the Lions backline put wing Adam Attenborough over on the left; Lions regaining the lead 18-21 with 10 minutes left. At this point I left the field, sadly my input minimal as the game was dominated largely by Sil’s and the sound of the official’s whistle penalising Lions. Back to full compliment and the dream of running out at Twickers very much alive, the wheels flew off at a rate of knots unseen for some time. Lions conceded 3 points from the boot of that man Tom Lee again, Jack Hobbs dotted down in the left corner for his second, Lions kicked the ball dead, spilled passes, antagonised the official some more and to rub it in, prop Aiden Parkinson received a red card, before we could blink, the final whistle sounded, Sil’s 26-21 Lions.
Heartbreak. Despite huge expectations of ourselves, Sil’s had become dream killers on the third time of asking. At 38 years young, I personally now harbour no hope of playing at Twickers anytime soon, damn. Giving out medals post match, the Sil’s Chairman announced that West Leeds had thumped Aspatria 50-10 and that Sil’s had been awarded a home semi final against Leeds in April, double damn!
From here… well; we doff our hat in the direction of Sil’s, thank them for their hospitality, dust ourselves down and get back on the horse, four very important league games; win three of them and we are winners of this very tough league.
98 first team games for Lions, this my fourth loss… a bitter one to swallow, but, the sun will come up tomorrow and woe betide Barkers Butts this weekend.

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