Leamington Royals suffered an agonising defeat to Sherwood Wolf Hunt in the Midlands Premier plate final on Saturday with Swedish international Fabian Wikander’s introduction from the bench turning the tide to help his side to a 30-18 win.
Despite missing four potentials match-winners through holidays and weddings in former Coventry Bears player Matt Cooper, forwards Liam Wellings, Reece Jones and Andre Martins, Royals started the brighter.
After 20 minutes of defences being on top the ball was shipped wide and captain Steve Alford crossed from half-way.
Sustained pressure and ill discipline from Sherwood was rewarded with further tries from wingers Andy Morgan and Adam Stannard, both finished well in the corners.
Two Tom Hyam goals made it 16-6 in Royals’ favour at the interval.
However, it was Sherwood who came out all guns blazing in the second half.
Royals suffered two concussion injuries to forwards in quick succession and they proved pivotal as their players could not get the rest they deserved, with Ben Nuttall completing 65 minutes at prop.
Dan Pearson crossed for Sherwood and the fresh Wikander went over to put Sherwood into a slender two-point lead.
Two decisions then went against Royals.
First, Chris Dixon surged through the Wolf Pack line to score, only to be pulled back for a penalty in Royals’ favour for a Sherwood offside, with the referee apologising after admitting he blew his whistle too early.
Then, on the next play, again Dixon was about to score under the posts only to be stopped by a high tackle. The penalty was given to Royals for the tackle but the question had to be asked about a penalty try which would of taken the score out to 22-18 to Royals with minutes remaining.
However, it was not given and Sherwood defended their line well to exit their goal area.
Leamington responded with a penalty goal from Hyam which levelled the scores at 18-18 with ten minutes remaining.
Both teams traded blows as they searched for the crucial score and it was Royals who blinked first, Wikander scoring again after scooting from the ruck and finding a gap in the tiring Royals defence.
With a fitter bench, Sherwood took advantage of Royals’ desperation to get back in the game with a score from the last play of the match.
However, Royals can take heart in contributing to an excellent game which demonstrated commitment and skill from both sides.
This weekend sees Leamington host their presentation evening on Saturday (7pm) at Whitnash Sports and Social club with the AGM following on Sunday at noon.