RUGBY: Sam’s the man as Lions keep their fine run going

Sam Crooks completes his hat-trick of tries for the Lions against Syston. Picture: Mick Sutterby
Sam Crooks completes his hat-trick of tries for the Lions against Syston. Picture: Mick Sutterby
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For the second Saturday running Peterborough Lions had a hat-trick hero as they kept their fine run going in the English Clubs Championship.

Last weekend number eight Conor Gracey crossed three times in the home win over Old Northamptonians - today (January 30) it was the turn of seocnd row Sam Crooks to snatch a treble as the Lions beat Syston 26-10 at Bretton Park.

Adam Barnard races in for the second Lions try. Picture: Mick Sutterby

Adam Barnard races in for the second Lions try. Picture: Mick Sutterby

That made it eight wins in nine games for the Lions and moved them up into fifth place in the National League Division Three table.

Boosted by the addition of loan signings Josh Waller and Pete Kolakowski from Cambridge and the return from injury of inspirational skipper Chris Humphrey, the Lions never looked like losing today’s clash and it was difficult to see how Syston had beaten runaway league leaders Hinckley seven days earlier.

Lions were the dominant force in the first half with Syston venturing just twice into the Lions 22 and by half-time they’d established a 21-10 lead.

Syston saw much more of the ball in the second half as the Lions were again disrupted by injuries (full-back De Lay Rey Veenendaal and winger Vernon Horne both limped off) and a yellow card (Marius Andrijauskas was sin-binned for a no-arm tackle), but no matter how hard they tried they couldn’t penetrate a sound Lions defence.

Pete Kolakowski (right) in action for the Lions against Syston. Picture: Mick Sutterby

Pete Kolakowski (right) in action for the Lions against Syston. Picture: Mick Sutterby

“That was an excellent all-round display,” enthused Lions chairman Andy Moore. “I thought the two boys from Cambridge were outstanding and we must now have the strongest pack in the league. We’re certainly doing the business at the moment.”

Lions hit the front after nine minutes when Tom Lewis won a linout 10 metres out and after a series of thrusts for the line it was former Borough skipper Crooks who burrowed his way over. Will Carrington added the conversion.

Syston did level on 26 minutes from their first foray into the Lions 22 but for the rest of the half they never got a sniff. It was all Lions.

A dazzling 20-yard break by Veenendaal sent Adam Barnard scurrying in behind the posts for the second Lions touchdown on 29 minutes and then just before half-time another fantastic counter-attack from deep by Veenendaal, this time over 35 yards, ended with Crooks taking a scoring pass. Carrington added the extras to both those tries.

Three minutes into the second period Crooks completed his hat-trick to secure the bonus pooint when he added the finishing touch to a powerful charge upfield by the forwards in which prop Ben Howerd featured three times.

For the remainder of the half it was mostly Syston with the ball in their hands but for all their huffing and puffing they couldn’t blow the Lions defence down.

Over at Fengate there was a fourth defeat on the trot for Borough in Midlands Division Two East (South).

They lost 36-8 to Oadby and it was the same old story for Lee Adamson’s side. They displayed plenty of effort and bags of enthusiasm but were outmuscled by bigger opponents.

“We need some big old boys to add a bit of grunt,” said Borouth vice-chairman Archie Bennett.

Josh Casbon (try) and Joe Andresen (penalty) scored the points for Borough with Stuart Day, Scott Mills and Casbon emerging with most ceredit.