The tough-tackling Lions win a bruising battle at Bretton

Tom Gulland roars with delight as he crosses for the third Lions try. Picture: Mick Sutterby
Tom Gulland roars with delight as he crosses for the third Lions try. Picture: Mick Sutterby
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Peterborough Lions have a weekend off and boy have they deserved it.

No game this Saturday will give their battered bodies a chance to heal after a bruising battle at Bretton last weekend.

Conor Gracey on the charge for the Lions. Picture: Mick Sutterby

Conor Gracey on the charge for the Lions. Picture: Mick Sutterby

They welcomed their main Midlands Premiership play-off rivals Newport to Solstice Park and knew they were in for a tough one. And it certainly lived up to expectation.

The visitors were huge, they were powerful and they were well drilled and they were looking to complete the double over the city side after winning 41-21 in Salop in October.

But on this occasion they came up against a determined Lions side who put their bodies on the line in a crunch game.

It was a war of attrition, an intense contest of bone-crunching tackles with one big hit after another.

Lions number eight Vaha Halaifanua is caught by a Newport player. Picture: Mick Sutterby

Lions number eight Vaha Halaifanua is caught by a Newport player. Picture: Mick Sutterby

For 70 minutes it was stalemate but eventually the roaring Lions found a way through. They scored three tries in the last 10 minutes to win 22-3 and gain sweet revenge.

They celebrated wildly and, more importantly, moved 15 points clear of their victims in the race to finish as runners-up behind unbeaten runaway leaders Birmingham.

Lions chairman Andy Moore, beaming from ear to ear, said: “What an absolute cracker of a game. We knew exactly what to expect - a really tough game against a big, strong side and that’s what we got.

“But this time we were the strongest side. We did to them what they did to us at their place - hit ‘em hard at the end.

Action from the game betwwen Borough and Old Northamptonians. Picture: David Lowndes

Action from the game betwwen Borough and Old Northamptonians. Picture: David Lowndes

“It was our best performance of the season. It was a Herculean effort. Each and every one of our players gave it their all. We never missed a tackle all afternoon.

“If we can keep playing like that then second place shouldn’t be a problem.”

Tongan hooker Niko Moa crashed over for the first Lions try 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.

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.

In came two loanees from Ampthill - Kieran O’Connor and Joshua White - and new signing Ashley Hill from Stamford.

The Lions are next in action on February 17 when they travel to Nuneaton.

MIDLANDS DIVISION ONE

Borough and Oundle both suffered narrow defeats in Midlands Division One.

Borough were pipped 23-22 by Old Northamptonians in a thriller at Fengate while Oundle lost 17-10 at powerful Nottingham side Paviors.

Two yellow cards proved costly for Borough in their match. Joe Andresen was sin-binned for something he said and Mooki Tshepo-Olebile for not getting up from the tackle and during their absence in the second half, ONs came back strongly from a 15-3 half-time deficit to lead 23-15.

Borough scored a try right at the end to secure a losing bonus point and it was number eight Sarel Pretorius who crossed to complete his hat-trick of tries.

Borough vice-chairman Archie Bennett said: “It was a great game of open rugby between two evenly-matched sides and could have gone either way.”

Apart from Pretorius, hooker Jamie Dingle and flanker Rob Mould had fine games.

Borough travel to Kettering for a re-arranged game this Saturday.

ON SIX NATIONS DUTY

Peterborough referee Nicola Reynolds has been appointed as AR1 (linesman and first replacement referee) for the Women’s Six Nations match between England and Ireland in March.