After a winning run up to Christmas and a solid performance last week, Saturdays efforts at the Stute against Loughborough fell well short of expectations.There was a lack of crispness in all aspects of play and the visitors fully deserved their victory. They simply had more hunger and played at a tempo that the Elks never matched except on a few isolated occasions.
Loghborough established a 0 - 27 lead after thirty minutes and never looked like being overhauled even though the home side restricted them to one score in the second half and generally dominated territorially. A feature of recent games, poor kicking out of hand, gifted Loughborough an early score after only five minutes. Sykes fielded a poor clearance, returned the kick and reclaimed it before feeding Rooie who scored in the corner to give them a 0 - 5 lead. Lougborough added to their tally at regular intervals up to half time with the Elks interrrupting the process on only one occasion just beofre half time.
Loughborough went 0 - 10 up after ten minutes curtesy of some questionnable defence. Line out ball on half way was moved wide, tackles were missed and Sands galloped into the corner. Five minutes later missed tackles again caused the damage. York picked from a scrum inside the Elks half, broke tackles and fed the ball wide. Slick hands and numbers in support kept the ball alive and Brown finished fora try converted by Sykes to stretch the lead to 0 - 17. Loughborough had control of the game at this point and sensing their first victory at the Stute kept the Elks on the back foot. They dominated the breakdown and were more decisive and forceful in their ball carrying.
While the Elks scrum covered their own ball and the line out generally covered theirs the side struggled to make use of the ball produced. A poor kick, lack of chase and missed tackles allowed Loughborough to counter and win apenalty on twenty minutes with which Sykes made it 0 - 20. Worse was to come ten minutes later as the Elks struggled to fight their way back into the game. Lambs pass was perfectly judged by Buckley who intercepted and raced clear unapposed to make it 0 - 27. Waking from their stupor Haigh and Gatehouse took play into the Loughborough half and earned a penalty which was put into the corner. Fowkes secured the line out and the forwards rumbled over the line for Bennett to claim the try. Lambs conversion reduced the arrears to 7 - 27 as half time approached.
With a mountain to climb and having lost Quinn and Pringle, to be replaced by Smithurst and Meakin, the Elks gave a much more competent second half performance. The idea that the game could be salvaged came barely two minutes into the half. A line out inside the visitors twenty two again provided the ball. The forwards drove the ball on and fed Gatehouse in midfield, whose strength took him through tackles to score between the posts. Lamb added the extras to give the Elks hope at 14 - 27.
The home side at last started to produce the game they are capable of and applied pressure to the Loughborough line. Moore and the impressive youngster Meakin popped up all over the park as ball carriers and both as front rowers also conjoured a strike against the head which should have produced greater reward. Twenty minutes into the half the deficit was reduced to 19 - 27 when a wayward kick was fielded by Haigh who fed Greg Taylor
infield. He set off on a trademark run and linked with Meakin who set up a ruck inside the Loughborough twenty two. For once it was quickly won and a deft touch by Haigh and good hands from Fowkes and Gwynne put Greg Taylor
into the corner to make for an interesting last fifteen minutes.
That was, however, as close as the Elks got as despite the pressure exerted they could not breach a determined Loughborough defence who sensed a historic victory. The visitors deservedly had the last say when Buckley scored close to the posts and Skes converted to make it 19 - 34 with two minutes left.
Classic Man of the Match Marc Moore