RUGBY: Gracey grabs a hat-trick as Lions win the East Midlands derby

Conor Gracey completes his hat-trick against Old Northamptonians. Picture: Mick Sutterby
Conor Gracey completes his hat-trick against Old Northamptonians. Picture: Mick Sutterby
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The outcome of today’s (January 23) English Clubs Championship games involving Peterborough sides had a familiar ring to it with the Lions winning well and Borough suffering another defeat.

The Lions took the honours 33-8 in the East Midlands derby against Old Northamptonians at Bretton Park to make it seven wins from eight National League Division Three games while Borough went down 25-15 at Midlands Division Two East (South) leaders Melton Mowbray.

Sam Crooks scores a try for the Lions on his full debut. Picture: Mick Sutterby

Sam Crooks scores a try for the Lions on his full debut. Picture: Mick Sutterby

Number eight Conor Gracey had another superb game for the Lions and crowned a man-of-the-match performance by scoring three of the five Lions tries.

But remarkably it was ONs who dominated the game in terms of possession and territory. Unfortunately for them though, they lacked the guile and power to penetrate a solid Lions defence.

All the Lions tries came from counter-attacks from deep and they achieved victory despite picking up injuries before and during the game. Props Nico Steenkamp (calf) and Ben Howerd (back) were warm-up casualties while Chris Cutts, another prop, went off crocked at half-time and second row Matt Dunn went to hospital with a shoulder injury with 20 minutes to go.

Dunn’s departure meant the Lions had run out of front row replacements and for the last quarter of the match it was uncontested scrummaging.

The home side also had Conor Crown and Will Carrington sin-binned in the second half so all in all it was a creditable win.

Gracey grabbed the first of his touchdowns after just six minutes picking up at the base of a scrum five yards out and then Cutts burrowed his way over on 15 minutes from a similar position after a stunning break by full-back De La Rey Veenendaal had created the platform.

Carrington slotted both conversions and it was 14-0.

Two tries in two minutes before half-time made the interval score 26-3 to the Lions.

Flanker Sam Crooks, the ex-Borough captain making his full Lions debut, scored try number three on 37 minutes after a Jack Lewis interception - Carrington converted that one - and then right on the half-time whistle Gracey added his second following a telling 50-yard burst by Vernon Horne.

The second half was a very disjointed affair with all the injuries, yellow cards and uncontested scrums, and both sides added one try apiece.

Gracey got the Lions touchdown to complete his hat-trick just past the hour mark after a counter-attacking surge upfield spearheaded by Adam Barnard, Horne and Gracey, and followed by a smart lineout take by Tom Lewis.

Carrington’s conversion completed the scoring.

Borough were undone by opposition from Leicestershire for the third game on the trot with today’s setback at unbeaten table-toppers Melton following defeats by third-placed Market Harborough and second-placed Lutterworth.

“We actually played very, very well,” said vice-chairman Archie Bennett. “You couldn’t fault the effort our boys put in. But Melton were two-stone a man heavier and that’s what did us.”

Melton scored five tries with Borough crossing for two. Adam Kimber got their first following a fumble by the Melton full-back and Stefan Gallucci crossed in the last minute.

Rob Jacobs kicked a penalty and conversion before going off to hospital with a dislocated shoulder.

For Borough the outstanding peformers up front were skipper John Thompson, Dewi Pearce and Kyle Bratt while fly-half Tom Williams and centre Johnny Anderson did well outside.