Peterborough Lions kept their promotion push on track when resuming their English Clubs Championship programme with a win at Bretton this afternoon (January 6).
They took the honours 19-14 against Doncaster Phoenix at Solstice Park in their first match of 2018 to consolidate second place in the Midlands Premiership table behind runaway leaders Birmingham.
But it was by no means one of the city club’s best displays of the season. It was steady rather than spectacular and for the last five minutes, when they were down to 14 men following the sin-binning of Josh Waller, they were subjected to enormous pressure as Doncaster bombarded their try-line.
It was a nervous finale for the Lions faithful but thankfully their team stood firm.
And that really was the story of the afternoon - resolute defence by both sides ruled the roost with try-scoring opportunities few and far between.
Mind you, Doncaster managed to find a gap as early as the second minute when their Fijian winger Seva Bulumakau raced 50 yards to pave the way for a converted try.
For the next 15 minutes Doncaster were the dominant force and hogged possession. Despite securing scrum supremacy, the Lions struggled to keep the ball and were pinned in their own half.
However, when Nico Defeo and Tom Gulland linked up cleverly to launch a counter-attack, which was carried on by a Tom Lewis charge, it created space for Kaz Henderson to nip in for an unconverted try.
That gave the home side a boost and they slammed in two more tries before the interval.
Gulland grabbed a pushover try and then Henderson galloped in from 30 yards out for a solo score which was converted by Defeo to make it 19-7 at the turnaround.
Doncaster narrowed the gap to 19-14 with their second try 10 minutes into the second half and for much of the remainder of the game they had Lions on the back foot.
But great defending by the entire Lions team saw them hang on to their slender advantage.
Lions: Josh Waller, Jack Lewis, Tom Jones, Tom Lewis Marius Andrijauskas, Chris Humphrey, Conor Gracey, Tom Gulland, Tom Dougherty, Nico Defeo, Jon Hill, Semisi Sitanislei Tei, Kaz Henderson, Dean Elmore, Dan Malem. Subs used: Ben Howard, Sam Crooks, Sioki Vaha Tauf’i.