Rugby Lions vs Rugby St Andrews 1s
Rugby Lions 13 Rugby St Andrews 17
Counties 3 East (South)
Saints continued their unbeaten start to the season with a hard-fought victory at local rivals Rugby Lions in a game dominated by the defences.
This was only Saints second game in 7 weeks and it showed with a sluggish start. The home side put Saints under immediate pressure, but the defence held firm and they rode out the first ten minutes of constant pressure with some big tackles and crucial turnovers. The Saints worked their way into the game and recorded the opening score after 16 minutes. A penalty to touch gave Saints a good platform close to the line and a planned forwards move from quick line out ball saw hooker Chris Heslop force his way over for the try with the conversion attempt rebounding back off the upright. Saints’ indiscipline especially around the breakdown was costing them possession and territory with the Lions reducing the deficit with a well-struck penalty after 30 minutes. Saints worked their way through the phases with the forwards carrying strongly to make inroads into the defence and they were rewarded on the stroke of halftime with Steve Young powering his way over from close range for a try converted by Chris Halcrow to give Saints a 12-3 advantage at half time.
The third quarter remained scoreless as both defences held up well but the telling score came with 15 minutes left to play. Saints missed a penalty kick to touch but Lions failed to gather the loose ball and Jack Kettleborough was first to react, kicking the ball through and winning the chase to gather to cross in the Clubhouse corner to the delight of the large contingent of travelling supporters to give Saints a two-score cushion. Lions however weren’t finished and came back strongly and with the penalty count against Saints rising it allowed them to keep Saints pinned in their half. Eventually, the indiscipline cost Saints as they had a player sent to the sin bin and the home side took full advantage to cross for a converted try to leave the game finely balanced. Saints defence held firm until they were back to a full complement of players but this didn’t last long as a second yellow card again reduced Saints to 14 for the final 5 minutes. Saints managed to keep the Lions out and with 2 minutes remaining the home side opted to kick a penalty to further reduce the deficit but Saints held out to claim their ninth league of the season.
The victory ensured Saints remained top of the league and they extended their advantage to 8 points with second-placed Northampton BBOB unable to play due to a waterlogged pitch. This week sees the Saints welcome South Leicester to Ashlawn Road for the first home game of 2024. The reverse fixture was a tight affair until the Saints cut loose in the second half to claim the bonus point win.
Head Coach Ian 'Spanner' Spencer after the match said " With 9 league wins from 9, I feel a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment. For the Team to achieve a flawless record is a testament to the hard work, dedication, and skill of both the players and coaching staff. Being at the top of the table reflects a consistent and outstanding performance, and it's an excellent position to be in as we continue to guide and motivate the team".