Chester 24 -12 Leicester Lions
This was another fine bonus point win for Chester, leaving them unbeaten in 3rd place in the league following three wins on the trot. Sadly, for Leicester Lions it was their third defeat in a row, leaving them in 14th place with only a solitary bonus point. Yet they came with real attacking intent, ready to take advantage of the artificial pitch, and put in performance that belied their poor results to date.
The match began with Lions on the attack, recovering their kick off and setting up an attacking lineout close to the home line. The Chester forwards thwarted Lions’ lineout drive, turned the ball over and made a successful exit. In some ways this was to set a pattern for the remainder of the match with the home pack better organised at the lineout both in attack and defence, especially close to both try lines.
Despite an overthrow at the next lineout, Lions forwards recovered the ball well, and were able to break up the middle. They moved the ball quickly right and then back left, where they managed to engineer a 2 on 1 in Chester’s 22. Lions’ left wing Devon Constant clearly enjoys playing against Chester as he always conjures up a try. On this occasion he stood up the remaining defenders before crossing for a converted try after only 5 minutes. Again this laid down a marker, with Lions’ backs finding space out wide, especially in the first half.
From the restart it was Chester’s turn to attack from a lineout in midfield. The forwards carried strongly over the gain line, but were thwarted by a knock on close to the Lions’ line. But Lions were only able to clear to their 22. From the resulting attacking lineout the Chester pack quickly set up a tight rolling maul which they drove infield for twenty metres to even the scores with an unconverted try.
Once again Lions’ successfully recovered from their restart by kicking short and allowing wing Devon Constant to use his height to tap back to his following forwards. However, this time they were unable to mount a sustained attack. Chester won a penalty when Lions’ backs were penalised for crossing, and fly half Callum Bennett used the ball to set up another line out on the away 22. Again the Chester pack drove over Lions’ line, this time for Kyle Joseph to score a try converted by Callum on 19 minutes. The remainder of the half was a see-saw one. Lions’ continuing to find space out wide, notably using scrum half Tom Avis to loop around in midfield, while Chester’s attacking lineout threatened but could not conjure up another score.
The second half began with a narrow escape for the Hare Lane side, when left wing Jonathan Roberts produced an excellent try saving tackle on the Lions’ right wing. It was Chester, however, who came increasingly to dominate proceedings. In particular the pack was able to using its mauling and carrying capabilities to set up attacking positions and draw penalties. Lions defended well but in the 49th minute the Chester forwards set up an unstoppable maul moving first infield and then back towards touch to cross for a try by hooker Alick Croft, converted by Callum Bennett. Lions managed a revival when Chester No. 8 Guy Ford was binned, perhaps rather unluckily, for a high tackle just before the hour. With a man advantage up front Lions managed a converted try from a lineout maul of their own.
It was one score game with 15 minutes left, which maybe was not an inaccurate reflection of play. But, once restored to fifteen, Chester reasserted their control. Their defence was excellent as Lions tried desperately to run the ball, often out of defence, and on 78 minutes a penalty allowed the home side to set up a lineout 5 metres for Lions’ line. Once again the driving maul did the business to allow Rhodri Parry to cross for a converted bonus point try. This score denied Lions a bonus point, which would not have been undeserved.