Longton 1st XV 31 v 57 Newport (Salop)
Longton faced third placed Newport without kicker, Grant Hallam, and leading try scorer, Sam Evans, among five regular players missing and did well to score 5 tries in a 57 – 31pts. defeat.
Ben Shutt, Ryan Thorley and Eroni Leqeuwei were brought in along with Kieron Healey who was brought out of semi-retirement to plug the gaps and there was no lack of commitment from the team, even though at least 4 of the 8 tries scored by Newport resulted from missed tackles, especially in the midfield, where former Longton player, Hendry Vaka, was the chief playmaker and finisher for Newport.
The game could not have got off to a worse start for Longton when Newport opened the scoring after just 14seconds. Although Longton received the kick-off Newport managed to steal the ball as the home side set it up and with no cover on the blindside one pass was enough to create a clear run for the Newport left wing to run in the try. The conversion missed but Newport had the immediate psychological advantage of a 5pt. lead.
In the 9th. minute though Longton hit back when Sam Longstaff, who had an outstanding game, beat 5 men in a dazzling run to score under the posts. Scott Rawlings converted to put the hosts in front at 7 – 5pts. However, the lead was not to last when, with 14 minutes gone, Loington were penalised for hanging on allowing Newport possession from which fast passing left resulted in a 2nd. try on the left wing. Again the difficult conversion missed but Newport were back in front at 10 – 7pts.
The game swung back and forth and was very open with both sides prepared to run the ball from deep. With 21 minutes gone Longton went back in front from a driving lineout as backs joined forwards to drive a powerful maul over the line. The conversion missed but Longton led by 12pts. to 10. However, the lead did not last long as Newport always threatened with ball in hand in their backs. In the 24th. minute vital tackles were missed in midfield allowing Newport to exploit the lapses to score their third try. This time the conversion was good taking the visitors into a 17 – 12pts. lead. Worse was to follow as Newport ran the ball from the kick off to Hendry Vaka, who almost seemed surprised that he broke though weak tackling so effortlessly to run from his own half to score under the posts. The conversion made the score 24pts. to 12 and in the space of two minutes Longton had gone from leading to being 12 points behind, a deficit they were never to recover from. This disastrous spell continued when Newport collected the ball from the kick off and moved the ball wide left when once again a litany of missed tackles allowed the attackers to score a further try; again the conversion was good making it 31 – 12pts. – 21points conceded in the space of 3 minutes.
With 32 minutes gone the Longton pack drove towards the line before scrum half, Lee Brogan, nipped over in the corner for a try. The difficult conversion missed making the score 31pts. to 17. As half time approached Newport were to score again as a penalty was kicked to touch some 10m. from the Longton line. The resultant lineout saw the ball moved wide left where Hendry Vaka slipped a beautifully timed inside pass for a well-worked try. The conversion missed taking the half-time score to 36 – 17pts.
The second half started promisingly for the home side when they put a penalty into the visitors’ “22” but the resultant lineout was overthrown allowing Newport to set up a devastating counter attack as Hendry Vaka then ran the length of the field to score shrugging off several weak tackle attempts on the way. The conversion made the score 43 -17pts. However, Longton replied in the best way possible as Jack Newton-Taylor leapt up to take the kick-off on the run and sprinted through the shocked defence to score a remarkable try. Scott Rawlings converted to make the score 24pts to 43, ensuring that Longton at least captured a valuable 4 try bonus point.
In the 16th. minute of the half more missed tackles saw Newport touch down under the posts, the simple conversion making the score 50pts. to 24. There was a brief lull in the scoring until the 25th. minute when Newport first ran the ball left and then right and when, once again, missed tackles gifted a further try, the conversion taking the score to 57pts. to 24.
Longton had the bulk of possession for the last 10 minutes and with 34mins. of the half gone scored their final try; a penalty was kicked deep followed by a scrum,shortly after which produced a pick –and-drive before the ball was released to the backs for centre Hamish McIntosh to run in the final try. Scott Rawlings’ conversion made the final score 31pts. to 57 edging Longton a little closer to Lichfield in the relegation battle.
Next week Longton travel to Bridgnorth which has rarely been a happy hunting ground for them; they will be hoping to have some of their absent players back by then.