Chester 31 v Luctonians 15
This was a hard fought but well deserved Chester win. The match was in doubt until close to the end while, at times, the visitors’ pack seemed likely to grind out a win based on a powerful scrum and their driving maul. It spoke volumes for Chester’s defensive resiliance that they were able to limit the damage on the scoreboard, and eventually to pull away and win decisively.
The match began very well for the home side with a try after only four minutes. A loose Luctonians’ kick was run back by centre Freeman Payne. Freeman spotted a big gap behind the visitors’ defensive line and, with a fine piece of individual skill, he chipped the ball into space and recovered it, before sending right wing Matt Crow over for the try, which was converted by Liam McGovern. However, Chester’s lead was short lived, as Luctonians replied with a converted try of their own, following a fine break by their outside centre Frank Kelly, who was to prove a threat all afternoon. Luctonians largely dominated both possession and territory for the remainder of the half, yet the home defence held, despite some missed first up tackles. They were aided partly by Luctonians’ tendency to overthrow lineout ball and their loose passing at crucial moments. However, Chester also had an effective exit strategy, in which Liam McGovern’s line kicking played a critical part. For their part, Chester’s occasional forays into the visitors’ 22 consistently fell foul of the referee, Mr. Woods, who penalised them four times for holding on close to Luctonians’ line. That is until the 40th minute, when Sean Green ran back a loose Luctonians’ kick. Forwards and backs carried the movement on through nine phases, before quick ruck ball was used to put Andy Bastin over for the try, again converted by Liam McGovern.
Having gone into a somewhat unlikely lead, Chester pressed home their advantage early in the second half. Once again a loose kick allowed the home side to create quick ruck ball deep the Luctonians’ 22. It was moved to Matt Crow, who now appeared on the left wing to score in the corner. Liam McGovern produced an excellent conversion to put Chester ahead 21-7. In response Luctonians tried to resume ‘normal service’, mauling every attacking lineout to wear down the home defence. Eventually, in the 54th minute this yielded a penalty close to Chester’s posts, which they kicked to make the score 21-10. Approaching the hour mark, in a critical few minutes Chester defended three scrums close to their try line before managing to clear their lines. However, in the 64th minute Luctonians built an excellent attack, this time involving both backs and forwards, which led to an unconverted try.
This put them well in touch, at 21-15, with about a quarter of an hour still to play. However, the game was beginning to open up and the Chester players’ fitness began to show. They built some excellent forward pressure of their own, but were not quite able to force their way over for a try. Then, with 5 minutes left, they won a penalty for a deliberate Luctonians’ knock on. Callum Bennett, who by now had replaced Liam McGovern at fly half, kicked the goal to give Chester a more comfortable 24-15 lead. The drama, however, was not quite over. Luctonians were now playing catch up and trying to run the ball from deep in their own half. In the final play of the match Chester turned the ball over and moved it right to Tom Foden in space. Tom saw that Chester had a numbers advantage, and good hands saw the ball was moved eventually to Callum Bennett, who scored the try and then added the extras with a conversion from close to touch, making the final score 31-15.