Lancers fall short at the Cage
Southwark RFC narrowly lose to Old Gravesendians
This week the Lancers return home to the cage, where they found their first win of the season a fortnight ago. A hint of consistency is finally starting to build up in a number of positions across the Lancers 1st XV, but still evading them at 10, where Southwark were starting their 4th Fly Half in 5 games.
Southwark kicked off and the Lancers started strong out of the gate. Intensity was high right from the opening kick-off, charging down the attempted clearance kick and following it up with strong running by the forward pods. This early pressure saw Lancers rewarded with a penalty under the posts, slotted by new Fly half (and front row replacement) Aaron Redgrave.
Old Gravesendians struck back quickly however, recovering possession from the restart, they ran in to a solid Lancers defence for several phases, prompting the Gravesendians fly half to unexpectedly attempt a drop goal from just outside the 22. It didn’t look pretty, but it snuck over the top of the crossbar and Gravesendians were level, 3-3.
Both teams kept up the intensity following the restart with strong running and good defence, but neither were clinical, with scrums becoming the theme of the half and ultimately the game.
It was lancers who crossed the white wash first though, mid-way through the first half. After sucking in the Gravesendians defence with repeated strong runs from the forward pack led by Alex Dark and Michael Wilkinson, they went wide with a slick backs move out to winger Ben Ofori who looked sure to score, but was caught by last-ditch tackle from the Gravesendians winger. However, he offloaded from the deck releasing centre Jake Upward to run in uncontested to score under the posts. The afters were added by Aaron Redgrave, and Lancers were up 10-3.
Rather than kicking on and building from this platform however, Lancers let their opponents right back in the game with poor discipline allowing Gravesendians to kick 2 quick penalties. Taking advantage of the big boot of their outside centre, the first was slotted from just inside the half way line. The second was more routine and just like that Gravesendians had made it 10-9. Lancers managed to hit back with a penalty of their own just before the half, and went into half time 13-9 up.
Both teams came out with good intensity in the second half but once again strong defence and unforced errors were the order of the day as neither team looked likely to score. The early highlight of the second half for Lancers came when another backs move saw Ben Ofori come off the blind side wing and charge through the hole created in the Gravesendians defence. With acres of space and support on the outside Lancers looked likely to score, but good scramble defence from Gravesendians saw them take down the runner and turnover the ball from the ensuing ruck.
The turning point of the game came with around 15 minutes to go when a strong but ultimately clumsy tackle by Lancers centre Jake Upward came in high on the Gravesendians ball carrier. The ref deemed it reckless, probably fairly, and Upward was sent to the bin. Utilising the man advantage Gravesendians went through the phases and saw them camped in the Lancers 22. Further ill-discipline from Southwark saw their opponent awarded a penalty on the 10 metre line, but when they went to take it quickly were impeded illegally by Lancers Flanker Frank Nankivell. It likely saved a try, but also led to Nankivell being shown Lancers second yellow card.
With the 2 man advantage Gravesendians were able to turn the screw, scoring a brace of tries. The first coming from stretching the limited Lancers defenders and utilising an overlap out wide. The second, minutes later, came from a line out deep in Lancers territory. With a simple catch and drive, the fully stocked Gravesendians pack were able to get the ball over the line. The conversion was added both times to put them up 23-13.
A combination of a lack of composure, decisions going against us in a dominant scrum and what appears to be a worrying early season trend of picking up yellow cards, meant Lancers failed to build on the momentum of the first half and let the second half slip away from them. However it looked like there could still be some last minute heroics. Back to full complement of players, Lancers managed to recover the ball from the restart and with a couple of minutes remaining drove down the pitch to the opponents 5 metre line, where their consistent pressure saw them awarded a penalty from a ruck infringement that saw the Gravesendians player carded.
Red mist appeared to descend however, and whether the Lancers leaders forgot or didn’t realise the score, went for a tap and go on the last play of the game instead of kicking the penalty that could have seen Lancers leave with a least a losing bonus point. Lancers Fly Half Araron Redgrave was held up over the line, and the game was over.
Lots to be proud of from this Lancers performance, even when down to 13 men the belief never left them and the intensity never dropped. Dom Palacio’s men will look to start converting these performances into results as the season continues
Report Courtesy of Tristan Demuth