Lions began this years league campaign with a solid, albeit not scintillating, performance to earn a win against the Birmingham based side. Having lost away at Dudley last year, and only narrowly winning at home, Lions knew this was to be a tough test. Dudley, full of new faces this season and led by new coach, Ex England international Shaun Perry, certainly came to spoil any early season party.
Neither team could exert any real dominance at the start of the game and it had all the signs of an early season match. Both teams were full of endeavour but made a large number of errors. Jon Boden, who had an excellent day with the boot, did convert two early penalties though to give Lions an early 6-0 lead. Lions then suffered some early disruption when captain Gareth Collins was forced off with a recurrance of a knee injury that he suffered in the last pre-season friendly. He was replaced by scrum half Tom Spence who did a fine job out of position. Dudley however duly capitalised and replied firstly with a penalty and then a try by centre Harry Bayliss which was converted by fly half Gareth Bown (6-10). Lions were still struggling to get any real territory or continuity but still looked dangerous with ball in hand. The stand out Lions player on the day, centre Steven Cross, who was a handful for the visitors all afternoon, finally made the breakthrough on 31 minutes crashing through a number of would-be tacklers to score under the posts. The conversion by Boden made the score 13-10. On the stroke of half-time Dudley were extremely lucky not to be reduced to 14 men for the rest of the game when back rower Samuel Pedley kicked out at Lions number 8 Rob Young right in front of the touch judge who consulted with the referee who somehow decided it only warranted a yellow card! Half time score 13-10.
The second half was much the same as the first with neither side creating many scoring opportunities. Boden and Bown traded penalties, Boden slotting 3 to Bown's 2 (22-16). With the game on a knife edge Lions finally put the result beyond doubt when another break through the centre by Steven Cross was eventually finished off through a pick and go near the line by his centre partner Alfie Malloy for his first try in Lions colours following his move from London Irish. Again it was converted by Jon Boden (29-16). There was just enough time for Lions to create one more scoring opportunity when man of the match Cross made his third clean line break but, with only one man to beat and the line beckoning, his pass to Malloy was knocked on less than 5 metres out. Final score 29-16.
Head Coach Jason Aldwinkle was extremely pleased with the result but left the players in no doubt that the performance was not good enough. This probably should have been a 5 point match for Lions and Dudley, for all their hard work and competitiveness, will probably be in the bottom half of the league. Lions wil face much tougher tests and will need to improve if they want to compete towards the top of the table. A better territorial gameplan, more accurate kicking, and better continuity are a must. All involved with the club will be relieved to get the first win under the belt though and will go to Birmingham Bees next week confident of getting their first away win.
Team: Williams, O. Taylor, Murray, Tuckey, Cheney, Rudkin, Morris, Young, Campbell, Knight, Collins (capt), Cross, Malloy, Veebel, Boden. Replacments: R. Taylor, Agar, Gibbons, Wilkins, Spence
Next fixture - Birmingham and Solihull (A) Saturday 14th September
Updated 15:19 - 8 Sep 2013 by Gareth Collins