Peterborough Lions got their English Clubs Championship campaign off to a winning start in Shropshire this afternoon (September 2) but there was heartache for Borough.
The Lions were at Bridgnorth in the Midlands Premiership and, after a much harder game than anticipated, they emerged 27-26 winners with the home side missing what could have been a match-winning conversion in the dying seconds.
But while they were celebrating a one-point win, Borough were losing by a point and there was late drama in their game too.
They travelled down the A1 to play Huntingdon at Hinchingbrooke School in Midlands Division One East and were beaten 21-20 with the Stags kicking their seventh and final penalty in the last minute.
The Lions victory came complete with a bonus point for scoring four tries and the chairman Andy Moore was a happy man.
“I’ll tell you what,” he said, “there won’t be many teams come to Bridgnorth and get a win this season. They were a very, very good side - big, strong, fast, fit and well organised.
“Like us, they’ve also recruited well in the summer and they certainly presented us with a few problems. In fact, they were 10-0 up after 10 minutes.
“We were shellshocked. But we got back into it and it developed into a fantastic game of rugby - a massively open end-to-end game full of big, hard tackles with everybody up for it.
“We snatched a win and I think we deserved it. We were the better side although we did drop quite a few passes.”
By half-time the Lions had hit back to lead 15-10 with Nico Defeo scoring a fine solo try and Chris Humphrey peeling off the back of a maul to touch down. Dan Malem kicked a conversion and a penalty.
A ferocious second-half started with another wonderful try from long range by the Lions sizzling centre Semisi Sitanilei Tei and then Malem raced in for the bonus point score, which he converted himself, to make it 27-21 to the Lions with three minutes to go.
Then as the game entered injury-time the Lions were reduced to 14 men as Sam Crooks was sin-biined and Bridgnorth took advantage. They crossed immediately for a try and a successful conversion would have clinched victory. Luckily for the Lions they missed it.
Borough’s derby battle with the Stags was in all honesty a bit flat.
Neither side managed to set the pulses racing in a game littered with errors and starved of flair or imagination.
Borough, newly promoted to Midlands One, had five debutants on the pitch in the shape of Billy Bates and Nick Borkett from Shelford, Michael Watts from Spalding, Hayden Wyber from New Zealand and Mooki Tshepo-Olebile from South Africa. They caught the eye only occasionally with full-back Bates the pick of the bunch.
Sarel Preotorius at number eight was Borough’s best player while for the Stags second row Wayne Bradley was a driving force and Tad Chapman was a hero for kicking their seven penalties.
Borough made a promising start with a try by Tshepo-Olebile after good work by Pretorious and Ben Higton. A conversion and penalty by Joe Andresen made it 10-0 after eight minutes.
After that though Borough struggled to win possession as the Stags forwards stifled matters.
It was nip and tuck for the rest of the match with Borough just managing to keep their noses in front. Huntingdon never actually led until that seventh penalty by Chapman.
Borough’s other points came from a try by flanker Rob Moulds in the corner after smark work by chunky centre Wyber and a conversion and penalty by Andresen.
Borough’s Nico Steenkamp received a yellow card midway through the second half for being over-aggressive.
Oundle, who came up last season to Midlands Division One with Borough, were also narrowly beaten in their first game at the higher level.
They were at Leighton Buzzard and were pipped 41-38. They got a losing bonus point plus a try-scoring bonus point.
Their tries came from Vernon Horne (2), Tom Oliver, Robb Shingles and Simon New with Will Carrington kicking three penalties and two conversions.