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Longton 1st XV 19 v 20 Stourbridge

In Longton's first home league game of the season they faced new opponents Stourbridge Lions in a match they were looking to register a valuable win. However, they were without second rows, Rich Thompson and Martin Ellis and with influential No. 8, Pete Wilshaw, still with cricket commitments their pack was slightly lighter in weight with few strong ball carriers and a weakened lineout.

The first 13 minutes saw Longton camped in the visitors' half and on 8mins. were only 5m. from the try line. As they attempted to dive over they were penalised allowing Stourbridge to clear their lines. With 14mins. gone the visitors first encursion into the home half saw them awarded a penalty some 50m. out. However, the Stourbridge kicker drilled a perfect kick between the uprights to give the away side a 3pt. lead, completely against  the run of play.

Longton continued to have the better of territory but could not break down a resolute defence. Scott Rawlings attempted to bring winger, Sam Evans, into the game but although the speedy winger often broke through  the first line of defence he was eventually halted by two defenders.

With 24mins. gone Stourbridge increased their lead to 6 - 0pts. with another long-range penalty. this from 45m.,  In the 35th. and42nd. minutes the visitors missed two further penalties from much closer ranges. In the 44th. minute Stourbridge latched onto a loose ball from a Longton attack and broke away. Flanker, Paul Houseley, chased back and with the runner just 8m. from the try line pulled him back round the shoulders. However, the referee deemed it a high tackle and awarded a penalty try showing the defender a yellow card which was changed to red when the player expressed his surprise at the decision to award the penalty try. Half-time arrived with Stourbridge somewhat flattered by a 13 - 0pts. scoreline.

Longton came out for the second half in determined mood and scored in the first 2mins.. Scott Rawlings cut back inside from 10m. out but his run angle collided with the referee, knocking him to the floor, winding him. Play was halted  to treat the official before Longton were awarded a a scrum to re-start the game. The Longton pack drove hard for the line and with Scott Rawlings joining the forwards he was the man to get the touchdown for Longton's first try. Sam Bedworth's conversion was just wide making the score 13 - 5pts.

Wth 10mins. gone Stourbridge placed a penalty kick to 12m. from the line. The hosts were deemed to be offside only 22m. out and in front of the posts. Surprisingly, the attempted kick at goal went wide leaving the score at 13 - 5pts. Longton were still enjoying a territorial advantage but the visitors' defence held firm. Play was taken to within 5m. of the away line when Longton lost possession. The ball was kicked ahead and, with all the Longton backs up in the attack a Stourbridge  and with Sam Bedworth's conversion it was now 20- 12pts.runner collected the ball and sped off to otuch down under the posts. The simple conversion made the score 20 - 5pts with Longton rueing their mistakes which had proved costly.

The 14 men of Longton did not throw in the towel and with 8mins. to go scored their second try. Scott Rawlings inside pass to Sam Evans saw the Longton winger glide through the defence, rounding the last man to touch down under the posts and with Sam Bedworth's conversion the score was now 20 - 12pts.

As the clock ticked down to 80mins. the Longton scrum drove hard for the line causing the visitors' pack to crumble with the referee awarding a penalty try, taking the score to 20 - 19pts. There was still time for Longton to try to snatch a dramatic win but they conceded a penalty as they tried to build a final attack. Stourbridge gratefully kicked the ball into touch to gain a one point victory.

There were many positives to take from the game for Longton, particularly winning the second half by 19 - 7pts. despite only having 14 men on the pitch. Sam Evans was again a constant threat every time he was in possession, his collecting of Scott Rawlings' kick-offs being particularly impressive. The return of Dave Bailey and Eroni Lequai boosted the pack and with Rich Thompson, Martin Ellis and Zac Heath available next week the team will be considerably strengthened.

M. Wheat.

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