Loughborough open the season with a home win
By Kenny Baughan
Loughborough 25-24 Long Eaton
Loughborough welcomed Long Eaton to Derby Road for their first league game of the 2018-2019 season.
Long Eaton kicked the game off into a slight breeze with the restart not quite being gathered by the Loughborough pack. Long Eaton knocked the ball on during the next phase to give Loughborough the put in to the scrum. This gave Loughborough the opportunity for their first attack. Number 8 Kieran Hewgill set off on one of many powerful charges before offloading to the supporting James Busby unfortunately the attack broke down thanks to a loose pass out wide. From this point on Loughborough enjoyed piling on the pressure, driving into the Long Eaton 22 with carries from Mike Roberts and Matt Page. A promising phase eventually came to an end, with Loughborough already having a penalty advantage. Thomas Kirkby stepped up and slotted the kick.
Loughborough 3-0 Long Eaton.
Loughborough gathered the restart well and began working through the phases using Stephen Duffus and Gary Bottomley to get go forward. A misdirected kick missed touch and Long Eaton attacked back upto the Loughborough 22m. Solid defence from the Loughborough line, notably Aaron Brown kept the Long Eaton attack working hard with Long Eaton eventually winning a line out 5m out from the tryline. A well taken line out and the ensuing maul gave Long Eaton the first try of the game, which went unconverted.
Loughborough 3-5 Long Eaton.
Following the try, Loughborough enjoyed much of the attacking possession. A well organised line out on the Long Eaton 22m which was taken by Toby Williams, led Loughborough to march the Long Eaton pack back to within 5m of their own line eventually the ball was turned over following a penalty and failed line out. The next line out however, caused the back peddling Long Eaton pack to bring the maul down illegally. Thomas Kirkby knocked over the penalty. Loughborough 6-5 Long Eaton.
Loughborough quickly powered their way back into the Long Eaton half using 1st XV debutants Jacob Abraham and Pete Chennells until the ball was knocked forward on the tryline, which was then cleared upto the 22m. Some quick recycling of the ball, Loughborough were soon back on the Long Eaton 5m line. Calm, deft hands from fly half Gregg Biddle put the battering ram Aaron Brown into a hole for Loughborough’s first try, converted by Thomas Kirkby. Loughborough 13-5 Long Eaton.
Full of confidence, Kieran Hewgill gathered the restart and set off on a charge back to the half way line. An uncharacteristically well weighted kick from Stephen Duffus pinned Long Eaton back into their 22m. Quick hands brought play back to the halfway line, where Long Eaton’s blindside flanker shrugged off a number of would be tacklers to barge his way over the line, this time the extras were added.
Loughborough 13-12 Long Eaton.
With their tails up, Long Eaton refused to let Loughborough clear their lines. After a few carries around the breakdown, Long Eaton won a scrum 5m out. A solid platform and some good hands put the Long Eaton 14 over for another try, which entry unconverted. Loughborough 13-17 Long Eaton.
Loughborough enjoyed the lion's share of possession early on in the second half. Another well timed line out gathered by Jamie Grice set up another dominant drive for the line. After some patient work from the Loughborough pack, Toby Williams dove for the line to bag the score which went unconverted. Loughborough 18-17 Long Eaton.
Each side shared turns attacking, with Long Eaton having the better of the two. A period of sustained pressure and a long period of hard carries rewarded Long Eaton with another try under the sticks, which was converted. Loughborough 18-24 Long Eaton.
With Loughborough knowing they deserved more than just a bonus point, they came out of the blocks full of intensity and purpose. With the clock ticking and a Long Eaton scrum on the Long Eaton 10m line, Loughborough upped the intensity again, pushing Long Eaton off of their own ball to win the out in to the next scrum. From the stable scrum, thanks to the front row of Lee Gunton, Stephen Duffus and Mike Roberts, Steven Sands strode through the defence to win the foot race with the covering defender. Thomas Kirkby stepped up under immense pressure to calmly slot the conversion. Loughborough 25-24 Long Eaton.
Loughborough knowing the game was in their hands and the clock edging towards the red, gathered the restart and slowed the tempo of the game. Using the forwards to retain the ball, before kicking the ball out to end the game.
A much improved performance from the Loughborough men, showing real grit and determination to keep playing the full 80 minutes to reap the rewards. Captain Jamie Grice said, ‘I asked for the same intensity we saw at the end of last season to stay up, and that's exactly what I got. I just hope Scott Pears makes a full recovery from his poorly leg’