Match ReportSat 14 Dec

Rugby Lions completed the first round of league fixtures with the visit to Webb Ellis Road of Derbyshire side Melbourne.

Lions started brightly and were soon on the scoreboard following a strong run by Martin Wood from a lineout ten metres out. A number of phases followed and when the ball reached Phil Reed he jinked through the defence to score under the uprights. Kris McFedries converted for an early seven point lead.

Melbourne responded well with their backs looking especially dangerous. Following a turnover for Melbourne, the ball was chipped ahead and Phil Reed managed to gather the ball right on the try line. The ruck was won and with the ball crossing the try line, the visiting fly half ran round and dived on the ball. The referee awarded a penalty for offside despite the claims by the visitors that the ruck was technically over. Perhaps a lucky escape for the Lions, with the similarity of the try at Long Buckby a few years ago when we won the match at the death, not going unnoticed by the home fans.

Lions were beginning to exert their superiority up front and a penalty won by the pack increased their lead to ten points. Undaunted, the lively visiting backs looked dangerous and were only denied on a couple of occasions by some last ditch tackling. They did reduce the deficit with a penalty when the home side were penalised for not driving straight at a scrum.

Following a period of pressure deep inside the visitor’s twenty two, Chris Wood picked up from the base of a scrum and fed Phil Reed wide out on the right. With four defenders on him, a lovely inside ball allowed Andy Morrison to stroll over for the try, converted by McFedries. A driving maul by the Lions was halted when the ball was lost and put into touch to end the first half, with the home side having a comfortable looking 17-3 lead.

The second period was a shambolic affair from the Lions with almost every conceivable way of conceding possession plainly on view. Melbourne thought they had driven over the line under the posts after the restart had not gone ten metres, but the referee deemed the ball to be held up. At the resulting five metre scrum Lions were penalised and a quick tap by the scrum half enabled a simple converted try and the visitors were back in contention.

Guy Field and James Wilshire Aitkin were forced off with injury and were replaced by Louis Addleton and Ben Nuttall. Losing these two big guys seemed to nullify Lion’s advantage up front, and it was Melbourne who gained the upper hand in this area.

It was totally one-way traffic at this stage with Lion’s habit of kicking down the throat of the impressive Melbourne full back, keeping them pinned deep inside their own half. A penalty for the visitors reduced the deficit to only four points, and the momentum was totally with them. Another drive by Melbourne was held up over the try line and only some poor handling denied them another score.

Lions were defending desperately, and conceded another penalty in front of the posts to reduce their advantage to only one point. The restart went straight into touch, and Rugby were on the back foot again. Another loose clearance kick went into the arms of the visiting number six, and he set off towards the line. He ran through untouched to score and give the visitors a deserved lead. The conversion was on target, and with minutes remaining, Melbourne led 17-20.

With time running out Lions managed to get into the Melbourne half for the first time, and a penalty at a scrum enabled them to gain a lineout twelve metres from the line. The throw was good and the drive was on. The momentum was unstoppable and they drove over the line. The referee could not see the ball and awarded a five metre scrum, although when the players got to their feet, Ben Nuttall was on the ground with ball under him. Melbourne conceded another penalty at the scrum and with advantage being played, Phil Reed put a neat grubber kick through, but a defender just won the race to the ball. The referee came back for the penalty and the catch and drive was again called for. With the clock showing six minutes of added time, it was do or die for the Lions. Again the throw was good and the ball secured. The drive began to gain momentum and with some of the backs joining in, the try was inevitable with Martin Wood claiming the score. The conversion was narrowly wide, but the final whistle sounded for what must have been a heartbreaking defeat for Melbourne.


Next Saturday Lions travel to Old Northamptonians for a 2:15pm start.


Final score: -   Rugby Lions 22  Melbourne 20

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