1st XV
Sat 28 Sep 2019  ·  UK IGR Southern League
Cardiff Lions RFC
Tries: J Ali, L Donovan, A Taylor (2), L Rose (2)Conversions: J Few, F Murphy
Berkshire Unicorns RFC
1st XV
Tries: J Kelly, B Brady, Unknown, C FidlerConversions: R Wilkins (2)
Unicorns disappointed in League Opener

Unicorns disappointed in League Opener

John Kelly30 Sep 2019 - 11:51
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Brave Unicorns come up short against a strong Lions Pride


As our first league game we knew it was going to be tough and the Lions certainly did not disappoint. After a week of atrocious weather the pitch was in surprisingly good condition, albeit much more compact than our Braywick home and during the match the weather held out for some decent rugby playing conditions. As a Unicorns side we are used to being the smaller of the two up front but certainly the Lions had the weight advantage and then some. With what looked like a fairly even match up in the backs the scene was set for an interesting game.

The tone was set very early on with the Lions roaring out of the block and taking advantage of a sluggish Unicorns start to score an early try in the 4th minute serving as a wake up call to get our heads into the game. After the restart the Unicorns started to become a bit more cohesive, however the Lions used a series of well executed forwards move to wear down our defence and were rewarded with an 18th minute try and conversion followed by another in the 24th in a half that had thus far been dominated by Lions possession.

Undaunted the Unicorns finally started to come together and a period of possession finally had us marching up the pitch into the Lions 22 and picked up a penalty from a messy ruck. The attempt at a quick penalty was not to be for Brian Brady, being marched back to the spot to try again but did better on the slower take to find Captain John Kelly on the outside who went over to score the Unicorns first ever league try in the 28th minute which was converted by Rob Wilkins.

In the lead up to half time play was evenly matched between both sides with some good rucking and turnovers from both sides but the Lions using their weight and experience were finally able to seize the initiative and break through our defence just before half time.

Half time score 22-7 to the Lions.

The second half started well with the Unicorns holding on to the ball a lot better as they got in to the tempo of the game, but the Lions forwards were not making life easy winning a lot of ball back from rucks that the Unicorns should have held onto. A penalty just outside the 22 and a series of strong runs from Richard Dunn and John Hamp created an opportunity for Brian Brady to be rewarded for his earlier generosity to go over for a try between the posts in the 52nd minute which was easily converted by Rob Wilkins.

Poor handling and judgment by the Unicorns let the Lions in for an easy try 3 minutes later which was converted by Lions Captain Jacob Few. By now fatigue was setting in for the Unicorns after a very tough and physical game up front and possession returned to the Lions fairly consistently. Nevertheless the Unicorns resolve held and defence generally held up. This all changed in the 68th minute after a strong run by the Lions forwards cut through both our forwards and backs lines ending with a try in the corner.

As the clock ran down there was a final opportunity for the Unicorns to shine with a great run and kick chase sending Charlie Fidler over the line in the corner to score the Unicorns last try of the game in the 72nd minute. The Lions held defensively for the last period of the game and despite numerous opportunities the Unicorns never managed to break that line before the end of the game.

Unicorns coach and 1st XV Captain John Kelly was ambivalent at the side's performance, feeling great pride for the effort put in on the pitch by all concerned, yet disappointed at the basics which gave the home side a further advantage. He commented "As a Unicorns side we knew we were in for a hard and physical game from a well drilled, big and experienced side. The Lions were definitely the dominant side on the day and used their assets to great advantage outclassing us in organisation and maintaining or regaining possession. Basic handling and decision making for us was quite poor and certainly trying to take on the big boys above their waists was not working for us."

"That said, everyone on that pitch gave 100% and we fought to the very end when we could very easily have folded. There were a number of players for whom this was their first competitive rugby match and many others who were playing new or unfamiliar positions and they all stepped up to the plate. There are a lot of positives to take away from this game and some definite learning points that we will take into training ahead of our next game."

"I want to thank the Lions for giving us a great welcome to the IGR UK Southern League and for a game that was played in great spirit and with great discipline. We look forward very much to our return fixture at Braywick next season."

Standout performances from Richard Dunn and John Hamp saw them nominated for Players Man of the Match and Captains Man of the Match

Despite the disappointment on the pitch the Unicorns easily won the drinking competition on Saturday night and want to thank the Cardiff Lions as well as the Staff and Venue of Mary's for an awesome post match social. With the first game of the season done the Unicorns will be busy getting ready for their first home match of the season against fellow IGR UK Southern League newcomers Westcountry Wasps in November.

Match details

Match date

Sat 28 Sep 2019



Meet time



Match will now KO at 1415 for those travelling direct please meet at the ground for 1230


UK IGR Southern League

League position

Cardiff Lions RFC
Berkshire Unicorns RFC
Team overview
Further reading