Once again heroic defending kept Peterborough Lions on course for English Clubs Championship promotion on Saturday.
They welcomed Scunthorpe to Solstice Park, Bretton, and knew they’d be in for a tough afternoon against a side who arrived on the back of a mightily impressive 11-match winning run.
And sure enough Scunthorpe were good, very good. In fact they were, certainly in terms of possession and territory, by far the dominant side.
They were full of running and displayed bags of variety in their approach play.
But for all their pace, power and panache and the try-scoring chances that created, they could muster just two tries.
And that was down to another dogged defensive display by the home side.
In comparison the Lions rarely got within sniffing distance of the Scunthorpe try-line. But when they did, they snatched their chances and somehow managed to edge a 21-17 victory with three converted tries.
The win keeps the Lions firmly in the promotion play-off place in the Midlands Premiership and effectively ended Scunthorpe’s hopes of making a swift return to National League Two.
It now looks very much like a two-horse race between the Lions and Newport to claim that second spot behind Birmingham. Lions hold a four-point advantage with five games each to go.
Their remaining fixtures are: Lions - Old Halesonians (home), Sandbach (away), Birmingham (home), Bournville (away), Bridgnorth (home). Newport - Bridgnorth (away), Birmingham (away), Derby (home), Doncaster (away), Lichfield (home).
Lions chairman Andy Moore said after the Scunthorpe win: “I don’t know how we did it but we’ve done it again! We are beginning to look like contenders for National League Two. We’re creeping there.
“It was hard work today but fair play to the lads, they turned it in to get a result against a very good side, probably the best we’ve seen here this season.
“They were arguably better than us on the day yet we’ve got the result. All good teams have a bit of luck sometimes and I suppose we got some today.”
The Lions defence was particularly impressive in the last 10 minutes when they were down to 13 men following the sin-binning of Tom Gulland and Ashley Hill and Scunthorpe were battering their try-line.
Tongan twosome Niko Mao and Sioki Vaha Taufu’i plus Kaz Henderson scored the Lions tries with Nico Defeo adding three precious converions. It was the Lions ninth win on the spin and they should make it 10 with a home game against bottom club Old Halesonians on Saturday (3pm).
Borough were pipped 25-20 by Wellingborough in a Midlands Division One thriller at Fengate, the visitors pinching victory with a length-of-the-pitch try deep into injury time. It was Borough’s fifth loss on the trot and Saturday’s home game against Paviors (3pm) will be another tough one.
While Borough’s men might be struggling, the ladies team are flying.
Rich Parsons’ side are unbeaten this season and smashed Sleaford 94-15 in their latest league match on Sunday with Sarah Winder scoring four tries and Steph Warlow three.
Bourne will play at the highest level in their 31-year history next season after clinching promotion from Midlands East Division Four (South) with a 46-0 demolition of local rivals Deepings.
The win, secured with tries by Rob Bentley, Dave Maudsley, Jack Berry (2), Sam Evison and Sam Thornburn, guarantees Bourne a top-two finish and a place in Division Three for the first time.
And it also provided the team with the ideal boost for Saturday’s Midlands Junior Vase final at home to Eccleshall.
Player/coach Maudsley said: “We went out and performed for 80 minutes and there’s no better preparation for a cup final than that.
“The way we’ve come on this season, after being a bit off the pace in the first couple of games, has been remarkable.
“We’ve got a proper unit now at a proper rugby club that I’m really enjoying.”
Deepings player Guy Cunningham admitted that Deepings had been “played off the park” in their worst defeat since a 50-0 hiding from Wellingborough Old Grammarians in October 2015.
Cunningham said: “There are no excuses, they fully deserved it and the scoreline completely reflects how dominant they were.”