The Lions Bounce Back to Secure Safety
By Mark Denison
The Lions finally achieved safety on Saturday following the calamity of the previous week after defeating Camp Hill away by 39-33.
What a game, almost a mirror image of last season’s match at Camp Hill. It is a testament to both clubs that in 2 matches between them 172 points have been scored. Eleven tries, six to Stour and many near misses made this a match that did little to calm the nerves of visiting fans.
An excellent Camp Hill lunch for Chairman’s Day was followed by a sumptuous main course on the pitch. Camp Hill opened the scoring after 15 minutes but a try from Rhys Williams shortly after levelled the score. Before half-time a fine try for James St Aubyn after a break and pop pass by Will King was converted by Williams for a 12-5 lead. It was becoming clear during the half that it was the power of the home forwards against the speed and creativity of the backs and back row of the visitors.
The first half ended without further scoring but there was little sense of what was to come unless, of course, you had been here last year. Within 5 minutes Rob Akeman scored wide on the left after a fine, high kick from Rhys Williams was missed by the home defence and Cass Brookes seized on it to put Akeman in. A great conversion from the left by Rhys Williams seemingly comfortably in command.
Those of us who were there last year should have known better. Within 10 minutes Camp Hill were awarded a penalty try after their heavy pack caused the Lions to infringe once too often. 19-12 to the Lions and all to play for on both sides.
Fortunately, Camp Hill gifted the initiative back to the Lions almost immediately after the restart. A turnover gave Cass Brookes a gap and he put George Tildesley over wide on the right for an unconverted try. Almost immediately afterwards another fine, unconverted effort by Sam Wilson put the Lions up to 29-12. A fine move involving King, Brookes and Wilson led to the try.
Again, back came Camp Hill; another converted home try saw them close the gap to 10 points with around 20 minutes to go. Their never-say-die attitude and powerful pack were keeping them in the game. A Rhys Williams penalty followed, stretching the Lions’ lead to 13 points. From the kick-off came the move that effectively decided the match. A drive and pass from Camp Hill led to an interception by George Tildesley and a dramatic 60 metre dash for the home posts, leaving all behind him.
That appeared to be that with a Williams conversion leaving the Lions in the lead by 39-19 and 10 minutes away from safety. The away fans underestimated the home side’s desire to claw their way back and that is just what they tried to do, failing only just to achieve parity. A fine Camp Hill try, with their winger chipping over Owen Williams’ head on his way to the line and a converted try was followed on full time by another series of powerful forward drives and a converted try for the scrum-half. The final whistle blew and the Lions face another season in Mids 1, while unfortunately for Camp Hill they face relegation.
The story for both clubs and one which the coaching team is looking at, is that there is insufficient cover when players are injured or otherwise unavailable; this is a problem for all but the strongest clubs in this league. However, the Lions have reached double figures in wins and over half a century of points, with some notable scalps along the way. Only Worcester can dislodge the team from 8th place at the end of the season. The experience gained as individuals, as a team and as a squad will hopefully prove invaluable next season.
Match Report by JON DEWS, pics by SIAN DAVIES