RUGBY: Borough boy Sam gets a chance to show the Lions he can roar

Marius Andrijauskas gets stuck in for the Lions against Nuneaton. Picture: Mick Sutterby
Marius Andrijauskas gets stuck in for the Lions against Nuneaton. Picture: Mick Sutterby

Sam Crooks will get the chance to show if he can roar for the Lions on Saturday (January 16).

The former Borough first team captain switched city clubs over the Christmas break and will be handed his first starting appearance for the Lions when they visit National League Division Three rivals Old Halesonians.

Conor Gracey makes a break for the Lions with Sam Crooks (right) in support. Picture: Mick Sutterby

Conor Gracey makes a break for the Lions with Sam Crooks (right) in support. Picture: Mick Sutterby

Back row player Crooks came on at half-time during the Lions 17-9 win against Nuneaton at Bretton Park at the weekend when skipper Chris Humphrey departed after receiving a bang on the head.

And Lions head coach Darren Fox said Crooks will definitely be in the starting XV on Saturday instead of Humphrey.

Fox said: “Losing Chris Humphrey is a massive loss. He has led from the front this season and there’s nobody better in the league defensively. He stops players stone dead.

“But it gives Sam Crooks a chance to show what he can do at this level. He came on for a half on Saturday but he hadn’t played for six weeks due to injury. Plus he’d been ill for two or three days before the match and had only had a couple of bowls of soup.

Chris Humphrey was outstanding in the first half against Nuneaton. Picture: Mick Sutterby

Chris Humphrey was outstanding in the first half against Nuneaton. Picture: Mick Sutterby

“We’ll get a clearer picture of what he can do on Saturday. And from what I’ve seen of him at training he definitely has something to offer at this level.”

Fox went on to say how much admiration he had for Crooks for trying to improve his game.

He added: “It was a big call for Sam to make especially as he was Borough captain. He deserves credit for having the bottle to come to us and say he wanted to have a go.”

Fox said he was delighted with the way his team, and especially the forwards, performed against Nuneaton.

“I was really chuffed with the boys. You’ve only got to watch international and Premiership rugby to see that if you have a dominant scrum you dominate the game. And that’s what we had against Nuneaton.

“And that’s down to hard work on the training ground. We’re all grafting for one another at this level.”

Apart from a superb effort by Humphrey, Fox also singled out number eight Conor Gracey for praise.

“He gets better with every game and that’s because he’s working hard,” said Fox. “He was on a family holiday last week, but still put in the training sessions at Centre Parcs.

“We’re not playing at a Mickey Mouse level - it’s a good standard of rugby and the players are beginning to realise they make life easier for themselves and the team when they train hard in the week.

“We may only have a tiny squad but we are working for one another at the moment and as long as we keep doing that we’ll win games.”

Gracey scored one of the Lions two tries against Nuneaton - the other was a penalty try as a result of strong pressure by the Lions scrum - and both came during a sparkling first-half display.

Nuneaton came back into it in the second half but the Lions defended stoutly to restrict them to just three penalties.

Saturday’s opponents Old Halesonians are third in the league and will be determined to bounce back after slipping up at Old Northamptonians last weekend.

“We threw it away against them at home in September and lost 25-22 so we owe them one,” said Fox. “They are tough nuts to crack at home and they’ll be smarting from losing to ONs, so they’ll be well fired up. It should be a cracker.”

BOROUGH NEWS

Borough face another of the top sides in Midlands Division Two East on Saturday when they entertain second-placed Market Harborough at Fengate (kick-off 2.15 pm).

Last Saturday they travelled to third-placed Lutterworth and although they were on the end of a 38-5 defeat, the attitude and effort of the whole squad could not be faulted.

Head coach Lee Adamson commented: “Although I was disappointed with the result, the performance of the players was immense.

“I could not have asked for anything more, and ultimately we were simply beaten by a stronger team.

“That’s the nature of the game and I have told the lads that if this level of performance continues then the results will come.

“Market Harborough is a new challenge. We are at home and we go into the game in a good frame of mind.”

Two players returning to the club after periods away, prop Ben Edwards and three-quarter Tom Williams, could feature on Saturday.

Definitely missing will be vice-captain Ryan Morris who suffered concussion in a nasty head clash playing for the seconds against Old Northamptonians.

The ONs player was taken to hospital with a neck injury and the game was abandoned with Borough ahead 22-7.