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Match Reports

Longton 1st XV 22 v 19 Lichfield

In a pulsating and tense game Longton returned from Staffordshire rivals, Lichfield, with a 22pts. to 19 victory, the winning points coming in the 8th. minute of injury time.

The first 5 minutes were totally dominated by the home side who retained possession very well and attacked through their backs, moving the ball left and right in an attempt to find a way through the Longton defence. However, the tackling was sound with Scott Rawlings, Sam Longstaff and Grant Hallam putting in some fine tackles. In the 4th. minute Lichfield were awarded a penalty deep into the visitors’ “22” but instead of going for goal chose to kick for the corner, a tactic repeated in the 10th. minute but on both occasions the Longton defence held firm. In this period we had the first scrum of the game and it soon became clear that the away pack were going to be giving the home eight a hard time as they were shunted back, conceding the first of many penalties for this offence in the game.

Longton eventually won some possession and took play into the Lichfield half from where they were awarded a penalty 40m. out. Grant Hallam’s well-struck kick just shaved the left hand post but on the wrong side and the game was still scoreless. It was 22 minutes before the first score arrived when, following a penalty deep into the home “22” the Longton pack drove over the line, Craig Wilson getting the touchdown. The conversion just missed but the visitors led by 5pts. to nil.

The pattern of the game remained the same with Lichfield spreading the ball wide and Longton using their powerful pack to drive upfield. With 36 minutes gone Longton took play into the Lichfield “22” but conceded a penalty for holding on and the chance was lost. Going into injury time Lichfield finally managed to cross the Longton line, not through their backs but with some good pick and drives from their forwards.The conversion was missed and half time arrived with the scores level at 5pts. each.

The second half was only 3 minutes old when Longton again used the power of their forwards to execute a series of driving mauls which ended with Lichfield pulling down the final drive for the line, thus conceding a penalty try, giving the away side a 12 – 5pts. lead. The next 20 minutes followed a similar pattern with the Longton pack dominating the set pieces and Lichfield trying to find a way through via their backs but no scoring resulted.

In the 23rd. minute Lichfield won a scrum some 10m. from the Longton line and managed to find a gap in the defence to score a try, the successful conversion levelling the score at 12pts. each. Longton responded with some enterprising play taking play just outside the home “22” from where Scott Rawlings produced a fine drop goal, the ball just curling inside the right-hand upright putting Longton back in front 15pts.to12.

With around 10 minutes of normal time remaining Lichfield lost a flanker to a yellow card but instead of giving Longton a clear chance to clinch the win it inspired Lichfield to throw everything into attack. In this time Longton lost Jack Newton-Taylor to a yellow card and would be required to play the remainder of the game with 14 men.

 As normal time was reached Lichfield were pressing hard in the Longton “22” with the away defence attempting manfully to turn over possession. However, the inevitable happened and a try came and, to make matters worse for Longton it was under the posts. The simple conversion put Lichfield ahead for the first time in the game by 19pts. to 15.

The referee indicted that there were still 4 minutes remaining of injury time as there had been several lengthy stoppages from both sides for treatment. Longton made one last effort to claw their way back into the lead using the route that had proved successful for them during the entire match. They won possession some 25m. from the home line and from there executed a series of short burst, first through Craig Wilson and then Pete Wilshaw, repeating this tactic with the same two players, gradually inching closer to the try line. As they got to within the last few metres Sam Longstaff, who had being playing as an emergency centre, decided to join the pack and popped up to dive over for the try. Grant Hallam converted and the whistle went for full-time immediately afterwards giving Longton a very valuable victory by 22pts. to 19 and the 4 points that went with it. The win puts Longton ahead of Lichfield and out of the relegation trio.

This was a triumph for a completely dominant forwards’ display with all of the Longton pack playing their part led by skipper, Tim Wareham, who seemed to pop up everywhere in the loose and was a rock in the tight.

Next week Longton are at home to Scunthorpe, always an entertaining game against their Lincolnshire opponents.

M. Wheat.