Leamington fightback comes just too late to upset league leaders
Leamington fought back from a 16-point deficit to earn a losing bonus point in a game that provided fine entertainment for the well-watered vice-presidents.
With eight wins in the bag, league leaders Droitwich arrived at Moorfields following a healthy victory over Kenilworth and started the match at a high tempo.
They had an early opportunity to take the lead but their penalty attempt was off target.
With eight minutes on the clock, Leamington went ahead with their first attack of note.
Prop Dan Barber used pace, power and perseverance to break through a number of Droitwich attempted tackles to punch a huge hole in the visitors’ defence. Tom Lane stepped in with support and when the ball was booted into the Droitwich 22, the defence failed to control the greasy ball, giving Sam Nunn the chance to pounce and score.
The Droitwich response was immediate but the Leamington defence held out until just past the half-hour mark when the visitors scored a well-worked converted try following a scrum to go into the break with a narrow two-point advantage.
The start of the second half was a testing time for Leamington and a number of penalty decisions went against the hosts before the referee’s patience finally snapped and two yellow cards were handed out in quick succession.
Droitwich capitalised to claim two tries, one converted.
The last of these scores heralded the return to play of one of the yellow-card victims and from the restart, Leamington’s Gareth Shuttleworth got in a penetrative run to put Droitwich under pressure.
Leamington suddenly found a new energy, with possession being obtained from the lineout, where Craig Smith and Lane were excelling.
After one forceful drive, the ball was won on the far-side flank and moved quickly across field, ending with a darting run from Toby Bruce. The Leamington pack raced to give support and when a chink of light appeared, Patrick Northover dived over for a well-engineered score. Tom Jewitt nailed the conversion and suddenly, a game that seemed to have been lost, was now swinging back into the hosts’ favour.
Leamington continued to work hard and began to utilise the direct running skills of winger Garrett Bell.
This resulted in Droitwich having to set aside two or more defenders to try to halt these runs, creating space for the hosts to exploit.
It was a positive time for Leamington and, justly, their endeavour finally brought reward.
Not surprisingly it was the pack that did the damage as they drove relentlessly at the Droitwich defence. With the stuffing knocked out of them, the visitors had no chance of stopping Aled Thomas from crashing through their line to earn his side a losing bonus point. Jewitt added the conversion but there was no time for any further play.