Peterborough Lions gave their English Clubs Championship promotion hopes a massive shot in the arm at Bretton this afternoon (February 3).
They were at home at Solstice Park to Newport, their biggest rivals for the promotion play-off place in the Midlands Premiership behind runaway leaders Birmingham, and they ran out 22-3 winners.
It was, as expected, a tough game and there was nothing to choose between the two teams for 70 minutes.
But in the closing stages the Lions eventually managed to find a way through what had up until then been a stubborn, brick wall of a Newport defence to score three tries in the final 10 minutes.
Tongan hooker Niko Moa crashed over for the first from close range after Vaha Halaifanua had won a lineout five metres out, skipper Chris Humphrey snatched the next, also from short range, after a great counter-attack down the touchline by prop Tom Jones, and then right on the final whistle Tom Gulland weaved his way through the Newport defence from 25 yards out to touch down. Nico Defeo added two conversions to go with a penalty he’d kicked in the first half.
It was 3-3 at half-time and looked like staying that way as defences ruled the roost.
But the Lions, so determined to avenge a 41-21 defeat they suffered at Newport in October, never stopped battering away and persistence paid off in the end.
“We did to them what they did to us at their place - hit ‘em hard at the end,” said delighted Lions chairman Andy Moore.
“We knew exactly what to expect - a really tough game against a big, strong side and we were the strongest side today.
“It was our best performance of the season and if we can keep playing like that then second place shouldn’t be a problem.”
The Lions achieved victory despite being without several players through injury and unavailability.
Jack Lewis, Tom Lewis, Josh Waller, Semisi Sitanislei Tei, Alex Iannou and Pete Kolakowski all missed out and the Lions were forced to include two loanees from Ampthill - Kieran O’Connor and Joshua White - and new signing Ashley Hill from Stamford.
The Lions are still three points behind Birmingham but have moved 15 points clear of third-placed Newport.
Peterborough Lions: Ben Howard, Niko Moa, Tom Jones, Sam Crooks, Marius Andrijauskas, Chris Humphrey, Conor Gracey, Vaha Halaifanua, Tom Dougherty, Nico Defeo, Kaz Henderson, Jon Hill, Rory White, Kieran O’Connor, Dan Malem. Subs sued: Tom Gulland, Joshua White, Ashley Hill.