Peterborough Lions started 2016 with a bang this afternoon (January 9) but there was no new year celebration for Borough.
The Lions overcame Nuneaton 17-9 at Bretton Park to make it six wins from their last seven games in National League Division Three but Borough were battered 38-5 at Lutterworth in Midlands Division Two East (South).
The Lions owed their success to a splendid first-half showing. They dominated all areas of play, hogged possession and deservedly turned round 14-0 to the good.
The second half was a completely different story. The visitors improved dramatically and maintained the upperhand throughout and will have felt hard done by not to have secured the losing bonus point.
And it was no coincidence that the Lions went off the boil after losing their inspirational skipper Chris Humphrey at half-time following a bang on the head.
He was awesome in the first 40 minutes and revelled in the mud. He tackled like a trojan and together with back row partner Conor Gracey was responsible for making most of the Lions breaks.
It was Gracey who opened the scoring after eight minutes with a try from close range after Tom Lewis had won a lineout. Will Carrington added the conversion and was unlucky not to increase the Lions advantage four minutes later when hitting the post with a penalty attempt from 25 yards.
The second Lions score was a penalty try awarded on 34 minutes when the Nuns infringed as they reeled backwards at a scrum five metres out. Incisive forays into Nuneaton territory by Humphrey and Gracey created the platform for the try.
Also prominent for the home side during a sparkling first half were forwards Nico Steenkamp, Matt Dunn and Marius Andrijauskas. Due to the heavy coniditons, the backs never really got a look in.
The second half began badly for the Lions as Nuneaton kicked two penalties to bring it back to 14-6 within five minutes of the restart.
That got them buzzing and they raised their game considerably.
Another penalty on 52 minutes made it 14-9 and the Lions were under pressure for the rest of the contest.
But brilliant defence in all areas denied Nuneaton a further score and Carrington cruelly robbed them of the losing bonus point by kicking a penalty five minutes from the end from 25 yards out. And that was from their only excursion into the Nuneaton half.
Lions chairman Andy Moore said: “We ground out a good win. It was a very hard game against strong opposition and although we lost our way a bit in the second half when they changed their gameplan, I thought we defended magnificently.
“It was good to see Sam Crooks make a solid appearance on his debut.”
Former Borough skipper Crooks came on for the second half to replace Humphrey.
Lions: Chris Cutts, Jack Lewis, Nico Steenkamp, Marius Andrijauskas, Matt Dunn, Tom Lewis, Chris Humphrey, Conor Gracey, Tom Dougherty, Will Carrington, Vernon Horne, Arturius Balcunius, Adam Barnard, Kaz Henderson, Harry Winch. Subs; Ben Taylor, Ben Howard, Sam Crooks.
Borough were out-muscled by third-placed Lutterworth in Leicestershire.
Vice-chairman Archie Bennett said: “We competed well but they were too strong for us up front.”
Prop Stuart Day scored the Borough try after Lutterworth went 19-0 up inside the first 15 minutes. It was 24-5 at the break.