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Match Reports

Longton 1st XV 28 v 26 Derby

Longton pulled off a remarkable last play of the match victory at home to Derby to win by 28pts. to 26 having been 14 – 0pts. down after 6mins. to pick up an invaluable 5 points and so close the gap on Lichfield to one point in their fight to avoid relegation.

The home side dominated possession for the first 5 minutes but in attempting to move the ball wide left saw a pass intercepted for Derby to open the scoring with a runaway try. The conversion was good for a 7 point lead. From the kick off the visitors moved the ball left and executed a dummy in midfield to run through for the second try in as many minutes. The conversion made the score a daunting 14 – 0pts. with only 6 minutes gone, leaving Longton staring at a possible heavy defeat looming.

However, with 12 minutes gone Longton took play into the visitors’ “22” from where they were awarded a penalty 5m. from the try line. Lee Brogan took a quick tap and transferred the ball quickly left where it found Sam Evans, making a welcome return from an ankle injury, who managed to squeeze in at the corner for a fine try. The difficult conversion fell short and it was now 14 – 5pts.

After the early setbacks Longton were beginning to find some intent with strong ball carrying from Pete Wilshaw, Martin Ellis and Craig Wilson. Derby had a centre sin- binned after 20 minutes and Longton took advantage on 26mins. with their second try. Scott Rawlings fed winger, Jack Newton-Taylor, on the blindside and he superbly beat two defenders to score. The difficult conversion missed but it was now 14 – 10pts. and Longton were back in the contest after the early setbacks.

With 30 minutes gone Derby attacked down the right flank and scored their third try in the corner. The conversion missed making the score 19 – 10pts. to the visitors. Despite struggling in the scrums Longton were enjoying the bulk of the possession and territory and in the 36th. minutes score their third try when a penalty was kicked into the corner from where the resulting lineout saw a powerful catch-and-drive from which Craig Wilson got the touchdown. The conversion again went wide and we arrived at half-time with the score noe 15 – 19pts.

Longton had the advantage of wind and slope in the second half and soon made it pay when, 10 minutes into the half, they scored their 4th, and bonus point try, when a penalty was kicked into the corner. The resultant lineout saw the pack drive hard for the line with skipper, Tim Wareham, getting the touchdown. The conversion again missed but the crucial thing was that Longton led for the first time in the match, 20 – 19pts. During this period though Sam Evans had to leave the pitch with a recurrence of his ankle injury.

The hosts now had the scent of victory and Scott Rawlings made a break through the middle, carrying the ball to within a few metres of the try line before passing to the supporting Rich Thompson who dived over under the posts. However, he lost possession as he went to ground the ball. Fortunately for Longton the referee was playing advantage for a previous offence in front of the posts. Grant Hallam slotted over the kick to make it 23 – 19pts.

Derby were not finished as they attacked furiously taking play right up to the home line from where Rich Thompson was yellow carded and a penalty try was awarded. The 7 points put Derby back in front at 26 – 23pts. with only 2 minutes left on the clock.

Longton kicked off and managed to win a couple of penalties as Derby defended desperately to hold onto their lead. The second penalty signalled the last play of the match. Longton had kicked it towards the corner and from the lineout Sam Longstaff was hoisted high to take the ball and then, with backs joining in the drive, the maul went relentlessly forward. Just as it looked as though Derby were successfully repelling the drive Pete Wilshaw spun off the side and ably supported by two colleagues forced his way over for the match-winning try. The missed conversion was academic as the final blew leaving Longton victors by 28pts. to 26.

What a breathtaking game with so much at stake for Longton as this was one of the games they had targeted for a win.

M Wheat.