Latest match report
29/04/17 Tigers 1st XV 36 v 23 Luctonians
The last reel of The Great Escape!
A 9.15am start on Saturday morning saw two coach loads of players and supporters heading off from Tigers on their way to play Luctonians at Kingsland, near Leominster (Herefordshire), to see Tigers play the last game of what has been a tough season. Everyone knew that Tigers had their own fate firmly in their control. Win and it was National 2 North again next season – lose and we were in the lap of the rugby gods. The fact that the choice was between Tigers and Harrogate seemed to add a little spice to the game following the debacle of the Yorkshire Cup.
On arriving at Luctonians the players had already been making sure they were in the zone on the way down but the reality of getting off the coach to play seemed to add just a little more pressure. It was a day to remember especially for Peter Swatkins, who was making his 150th appearance for the club, and for Will Bennett, Jamie Broadley and Liam Wallace who have been in the squad for every game this season.
A large and noisy group of home team supporters were backing their side but nowhere near as loud as the Tigers contingent. As Tigers kicked off Peter Swatkins got under a high kick and Tigers set up their first attack. A penalty infringement by Luctonians gave Mark Ireland a chance to kick into the corner and with the lineout won they attacked again. The ball was, not for the last time, turned over by Luctonians as Tigers appeared to be snatching at the ball and letting the importance of the game get to them. A succession of penalties, knock-ons and forward passes followed but eventually Tigers made a good break with Jamie Broadley finding Chris Pond outside him and heading over the line to get his second try of the season for the first XV. Ireland converted and made it 0 - 7 to Tigers with 10 minutes gone. Only another 70 to endure! Luctonians responded almost immediately when a penalty allowed them to secure a 5m lineout and then set up the inevitable rolling maul which resulted in an unconverted try for the homesides flanker, 5 - 7 and still all to play for. Aaron Langan was replaced by Lee Monks and Frank Wragg moved into the second-row as Tigers began to pass the ball around to find the gaps in a well drilled Luctonians defence. Wragg and Aidan Leeming were doing a good job in the lineouts and Ireland was putting in some searching kicks to keep the home side on the backfoot. The game, however, was peppered with stoppages and good breaks by Jon Buchanan and Leeming both ended in penalties to allow Luctonians to relieve the pressure. From a lineout on halfway the home side set up a rolling maul which gained ground and sucked in Tigers players. The ball quickly went out and Luctonians crossed the line for a converted try to lead 12 - 7 with 15 minutes of the half left. Tigers were now having to defend as Luctonians seemed to feel they had gained the upper hand. A high kick was well taken by Swatkins who appeared to be tackled in the air. The referee agreed and Ireland, for the second week running, hit the post and the ball ricocheted back into play. Tigers recovered it and attacked only to knock the ball on and concede the scrum. This time it was Luctonians who upset the referee and from in front of the posts Ireland added 3 points to close the gap to 12 - 10. Tigers supporters were shouting their team on but it was Luctonians who were doing the pressing and Tigers defending. Eventually a gap opened up for the Luctonians fullback to enter the line and go over under the posts. As the kicker took a step towards the ball he stopped to settle himself but quick thinking by Monks saw him run out and kick the ball away. The referee rejected Luctonians protests indicating that he moved forward to kick the ball and therefore it was a legitimate to block it. 17 - 10 at half time and Tigers had the chance to regroup and “relax”.
It was Luctonians who came out on the attack and with just a couple of minutes gone they secured a penalty to increase their lead to 20 - 10. This seemed to spur Tigers on as they now began to apply pressure themselves and from a penalty Ireland put the ball into the corner. The lineout saw Nick Bingham heading for the line but he was held up only to find Swatkins available and forcing his way over from a metre out. Ireland converted and it was game on at 20 - 17. Tigers now took control and were exerting a lot of pressure on a tiring Luctonians team. From the restart, Tigers were awarded a penalty which Ireland sent out for a lineout on the Luctonians 22m. Leeming leapt (or was lifted) like a salmon and the ball went to Ryan Holmes who darted through for another quick touchdown and the bonus point try. With the extras added Tigers were now ahead by 20 - 24 and looking good for the win. Luctonians, to their credit, refused to roll over and tried to launch their own counter offensive. With the aid of a penalty they got up to the Tigers 5m line but were rebuffed by solid defence. Finally, they opted for a drop goal from 22m and took the score to 23 - 24 with just 15 minutes left. Tigers now upped the pressure and a good break by the threequarters found the hands of Broadley who, once again, proved unstoppable as he crossed the line in the corner for a try which went unconverted. It meant that the lead was stretched to 6 points at 23 – 29 and the home team needed to score a converted try to win. On the principle that attack is the best defence it was Tigers who applied the pressure only to see yet another penalty go against them. With just 4 minutes left Luctonians attacked but a penalty allowed Tigers to clear their line and, from the resulting lineout on the halfway line the ball went into the hands of Monks who sprinted over for a converted try to make the final score Luctonians 23 Sheffield Tigers 36 and the celebrations began!
It was a long trip but the supporters who had travelled down, and a considerable number who had made their own way, all appreciated the effort the players and coaches have put in over the last 7 games taking 24 points and winning 5 of them (and coming so close at Tynedale). From a personal point of view I feel the players have all stepped up to the mark and played for the pride of Tigers. I would not like to pick out individuals as the forwards, as ever, have done a massive amount of work over the last 2 months which has allowed the backs to fully express themselves. What I will say is congratulations to those younger players who have played in the first XV this season. You are a credit to the spirit of rugby, to Tigers and to your families.
A final word of thanks to the coaches who have stepped in to make the “Great Escape” a reality. Jamie Broadley, Tom Outram, Andy Barnes and last, but by no means least, Robin “Bomber” Hislop.
Scorers: Tries: Broadley (1), Monks (1), Pond (1), Holmes (1), Swatkins (1)
Conversions: Ireland (4)
Penalties: Ireland (1)
Team: Bennett, Coates (Thornton), Bingham (Gelsthorpe), Langan (Monks) , Leeming, Wragg , Sullivan (Townsend), Walker, Holmes (Dunn), Ireland, Pond, Wallace, Buchanan , Broadley, Swatkins
Replacements: Thornton, Gelsthorpe, Monks, Townsend, Dunn
Match Report: Graham Cockshutt