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Longton 1st XV 12 v 23 Lichfield

After dominating territory and possession for most of the first half Longton completely lost their way in the second half before going down by 23pts. to 12 to relegation rivals Lichfield in front of a good-sized crowd at Trentham Fields.

Longton were without injury victims Sam Evans, Sam Longstaff and Hamish McIntosh but welcomed back Eddie Askew. The first 15 minutes of the game were played almost entirely in the Lichfield “22” but the visitors’ defence held firm against numerous forward surges. The home forwards were totally dominating the set scrums forcing the visitors to concede a string of penalties as their pack wilted time and time again. Longton chose not to go for the 3 point penalty opportunities but instead chose either a re-set scrum or line-out. However, the Lichfield defence did not wilt under this constant barrage as they bravely defended their line against some strong charges by Pete Wilshaw, Craig Wilson and Martin Ellis.

Longton did eventually register their first try on 16 minutes through their pack. First Pete Wilshaw charged towards the line before Martin Ellis finally plunged over for the score. Grant Hallam converted for a 7 point lead. Just 2 minutes later though Longton lost possession when building another attack and Lichfield  immediately took advantage as they moved the ball left at pace before sneaking over in the corner for the score.; the conversion missed leaving Longton 7 – 5pts. in front.

For the next 18 minutes Longton continued to enjoy most of the possession and territory but could not penetrate the visitors’ well-organised defence. Then, with 35 minutes gone Longton produced wave after wave of attacks forcing Lichfield to concede several penalties. Longton again chose to kick for touch towards the line rather than go for the 3 points on each occasion. Eventually, the second try did come as forward drive after forward drive was halted very close to the line but, then, the ball was suddenly passed to Scott Rawlings on the blindside and there was no stopping the powerful fly half as he thundered over for the try. The difficult conversion fell just short but now Longton led by 12pts. to 5. However, Longton conceded a try moments later when a missed tackle in mid-field allowed Lichfield to capitalise with their second try. The conversion was good levelling the scores at 12 point each as half-time was reached leaving Longton rueing numerous chances to build a healthy lead. Lichfield had a prop yellow carded right on half-time.

The second half was a total reversal of the first half with Longton making error after error with ball in hand. Lichfield on the other hand were gaining in confidence. With 8 minutes of the half gone a penalty to the corner put Lichfield in a strong attacking position from which they capitalised. They drove forward through their pack to score wide out and although the conversion missed the visitors now led by 17pts. to 12.

With 15 minutes gone Longton lost Craig Wilson to a yellow card for a tip tackle and Lichfield chose to kick for goal which proved a good decision as they now led by 20pts. to 12.

Longton tried desperately to claw their way back but the harder they tried the more the simple handling errors crept into their game. With 15 minutes remaining Lichfield were awarded a penalty some 35m. out and straight on to the posts which yielded another 3 points. At 23 – 12pts. the visitors were now comfortable and they managed to see out the rest of the game to register a vital victory and almost certain safety. Longton on the other hand face two difficult away games at Scunthorpe and Newbold in their remaining two matches. There was no lack of effort or commitment in the Longton performance but the inability to convert pressure into points was the key factor.

M Wheat.

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