Leamington put their relegation fears to bed by beating derby rivals
Leamington banked a creditable, bonus-point win against an uncompromising and curmudgeonly Berkswell & Balsall side to put further distance between themselves and the drop zone.
Playing conditions were very heavy underfoot and a light rain throughout the first half did nothing to help the flow of the game.
In the opening minutes it was the visitors who were asking all of the questions and it needed an excellent lineout steal from Tom Lane and huge clearance kick from Jim Robertson to alleviate the danger.
After ten minutes, Leamington skipper Craig Smith, took the ball just inside the Berkswell half and set off at pace, completely wrong-footing the defence. His run combined exquisitely with that of winger Rich McKeown who raced in at the corner for a superbly engineered try. Robertson’s touchline kick drifted just wide of the posts.
The home side went further ahead with a piece of clever play by scrum-half Patrick Northover who used a quick lineout throw to send winger Garrett Bell off for a sprint up the flank and a score in the corner. The conversion attempt from Tom Jewitt fell agonisingly short from an acute angle.
Leamington were good value for this lead, with the pack working in harmony with the backline to produce some quality football and they were unlucky not to add to their lead following some excellent attacking play from their forwards.
Smith set the scene with a clean take in the line, enabling his fellow forwards to set up a steamroller-like drive deep into B&B danger territory. Prop Dan Barber took over and charged towards the try line only to be held up inches short of the chalk.
A further score was inevitable and Robertson took full advantage of a penalty award to kick his side into an excellent position in the visitors’ 22. Danny Phillips’ pinpoint throw was gathered and an unstoppable rolling maul ensued with Gareth Shuttleworth on hand to touch down for a 15-0 interval lead.
Leamington made a poor start to the second period, conceding a converted score almost from the kick-off.
However, this setback was soon overcome.
Luca Illing and Ball went close to converting clever kicks from Shuttleworth and Northover before the latter sent in another high ball. The Berkswell winger looked favourite but it was plucked out of the air by Smith who raced in to score.
Robertson added the conversion.
The visitors respond with another try but they were showing signs of tiredness as the heavy pitch took its toll.
While cramp beset the visitors, it was not a problem for the home side who sealed a very polished performance with another try.
Robertson sent through a low bullet-like kick down the flank which was fumbled into touch by the visitors. The resulting lineout went to plan, with a clean catch and drive which Shuttleworth coolly finished off.