Leicester Lions 25-19 Chester RUFC
3 tries not enough as the 1sts lose away
This was a close match which Chester could have won writes Des Hickie. Only three points separated the sides until the final kick. Nevertheless Leicester Lions deserved their narrow win, and Chester certainly earned their losing bonus point. The match was played on a very cold but still afternoon, and on a decent surface, which allowed both sides to attack through the hands and provide an enjoyable, if chilling, spectacle for the thin crowd.
During the first half Chester were utterly dominant almost everywhere except the scoreboard. They retained possession and the forwards were able to make progress over the gainline when running at the home defence. Shay Owen, in particular, made some powerful breaks, one of which led to an early try after Lions coughed up a penalty. Callum Bennett kicked into the corner and the pack drove the subsequent lineout infield. Macca van Sertima went close before the ball was moved right to his fellow wing Adam King. Adam crossed in the corner for an unconverted try, that raised hopes among the Chester support.
During the whole of the first quarter Lions only entered Chester’s half in possession three times. It seemed as though, given the visitors’ dominance of territory and possession, the floodgates would open and they would put several scores on the board, but the points simply would not come. Excellent pressure from Lions’ defence forced handling errors, the odd attacking lineout went askew, and a few penalties allowed Lions’ to lift the siege. So much so that their third visit to Chester territory allowed them to take the lead. A poor clearing kick let Lions run the ball back. A penalty allowed them to set up a lineout from which their pack created a well structured maul to cross for a converted try. This spurred Chester into action. Macca drove strongly into the Lions defence putting them on the back foot. The ball was recycled three times, moving the Lions’ defence around, until Tom Foden glided through a gap on half way, and ran in a fine 50 metre try without hand being laid on him. James Robins converted to put Chester 7-12 in front.
This looked a slender lead to take into half time, but an away win was still on the cards, provided Chester could maintain their attacking momentum. It was not to be. Lions came out for the second half clearly buoyed up by their strong defensive effort to date. Who scored next was clearly important to the momentum of the game, and the opportunity fell to Lions with a 50th minute penalty, which was kicked by centre Harry Key.
Under pressure Chester’s play was becoming more untidy. A poor ball led to their being turned over in defence in the 58th minute. Lions moved the ball rapidly to their left wing Devon Constant. Devon has been a constant thorn in the side of Chester sides, scoring tries almost every time the sides meet. This occasion was no different. Given the ball in space by centre Jamal Hamilton, Devon crossed for a converted try to put his side 17-12 in front.
Just as in the first half Lions had managed a try against the run of play, so Chester did the same in the second period. Just after the hour Ben Foden was penalised near half way for holding on. Then, wholly unnecessarily, the Lions’ hooker Ollie Taylor persuaded the referee to reverse his decision for an incident after the whistle had gone. Chester put the ball into the corner and the pack drove over for a converted try from a well constructed maul, to put Chester back in front 17-19. However, this lead seemed too narrow to stand much chance of surviving to full time, and so it proved. In the 68th minute Lions ran back a Chester kick. They maintained possession patiently until Devon made a strong dent in midfield from which the ball was moved right to find his right wing in space, and he crossed for a well constructed but unconverted try.
Chester had opportunities to build a score in the remaining ten minutes, but could never quite find the accuracy and continuity to do so. The final act of the game saw Harry Key kick a penalty to make the final score 25-19, to give Lions a deserved and hard earned win. Chester’s losing bonus point keeps them in second place in the table.