Peterborough rugby enjoyed a highly promising start to the new year with city sides Lions and Borough both celebrating highly impressive victories on Saturday.
The Lions made it seven wins and a draw from their last nine games in National League Division Three when thumping Longton 44-18 away while Borough increased their lead at the top of Midlands Division Two East (South) with a 46-7 home win over Oakham.
The Lions result has lifted them up to fifth in the table and all of a sudden chairman Andy Moore’s bold prediction last week to mount a serious promotion challenge in the second half of the season doesn’t look as daft as it first sounded.
The top team go up automatically with the runners-up facing a promotion play-off. The Lions are now 14 points off second place.
“We’re back. That was classic Lions rugby that I’ve been used to watching over the years,” said Moore after Saturday’s win.
“Longton had a purple patch towards the end but we were too powerful for them up front and too lively for them outside. Clearly they ate all the pies over Christmas - not us.
“It was a magnificent win - the best I’ve seen us play all season. We’re putting a great run together and it was just what we needed with leaders Nuneaton coming up this Saturday.”
Nuneaton visit Bretton Park (kick-off 2.15pm) on the back of a 32-17 win against Old Halesonians and they haven’t lost since November 5 when going down 16-12 at Birmingham.
When the Lions visited Nuneaton in September they were spanked 53-0.
“That won’t happen again, I can assure you of that,” said Moore. “We were bedding in a lot of new players back then. Now we’re a more settled side and I’m sure we’ll give them a good game.
“It couldn’t have come at a better time for us really. There’s a buzz about the place again and we’ve just signed a new Lithuanian - a young full-back called Alanes Alasauskas who’s been playing in South Africa - and he was red-hot on his debut against Longton.
“Plus we’ve got a couple of injured players on the way back. If everything clicks into place like it did last Saturday then it could be payback time.”
Lions scored six tries against Longton - Will Carrington, Peni Faingaa, Tom Lewis, Chris Humphrey, Alex Iannou and Adam Enwright all crossed - and Carrington kicked four conversions and two penalties for a 19-point haul.
The word promotion is also starting to creep into conversations down at Fengate, especially among the spectators.
And why shouldn’t it? Borough are after all unbeaten since the opening day of the season and are sitting pretty at the summit with an eight-point advantage over Old Laurentians. And they’re certainly playing like worthy champions at the moment.
They dominated Saturday’s contest against Oakham and all the more creditable is they did so without three of their best players. Michael Bean (injured), Tom Williams (university exams) and Stuart Day (wedding) were all absent.
However, these days Borough possess far more strength in depth and those who came in - Ben Edwards, Tanaka Kanhukamwe and Dean Heymans - proved to be very able deputies.
And Borough still managed to win handsomely despite losing Edwards, Heymans and Sarel Pretorius to the sin-bin.
Pretorius shone in an outstanding Borough back row alongside Ben Higton and Paulius Strigonas.
Try-scorers were Chris Sansby, Higton, John Thompson, Nico Steenkamp, Harry Roe, Danius Tomoliunas, Joe Andresen and Kanhukamwe.
Oundle did Borough a favour by beating second-placed Old Laurentians 30-25 at Occupation Road. Jaco Steenberg vitally kicked three conversions and three penalties.
There are no Midlands Division Two East (South) fixtures this weekend.
Borough Ladies also made a flying start to 2017. They entertained Maidstone in a league match and won by a whopping 68-0 margin. Abi Martin crossed for a hat-trick of tries.