Rugby Lions 15 Evesham 14
Midlands Three West (South)
THE PROMOTION race is almost certainly going to the wire for Evesham after they were edged out at fellow hopefuls Rugby Lions on Saturday.
This was just a second league defeat of the season for Evesham but their slip-up allowed Southam to move above them into top spot on points difference thanks to their crushing win at Woodrush, although importantly the bonus point gained in defeat means Evesham have a one-point advantage over the third placed Lions.
Victory now appears to be a must for Evesham on Saturday at home to Shipston before they end the campaign with a potential winner-takes-all clash at Southam on April 16 as both sides bid to claim the title.
Evesham knew victory on Saturday would have secured a top two finish and second successive promotion but they faced a stern test against a well established club with a mixed history.
Having been demoted to the bottom of the Midlands league hierarchy due to financial issues, the former National League club have been working their way back up through the leagues in years of late.
They retain a number of high quality players and rely on their history to recruit new talent. With this in mind, the Lions locals saw Evesham as no threat and gave little respect to the small town, community club.
Evesham were not to be distracted though, knew the job in hand and were fully confident of getting the desired result.
The visitors started brightly and immediately put pressure on the home side’s pack. Following great work from the front five, namely props James Roberts and Thomas Gazey, Evesham obtained a penalty from the scrum.
Full of confidence, Evesham opted to turn the screw again and called for a 5m scrum. Again, the front five had the upper hand and this allowed captain Nathan Chambers to bundle over from three metres out before Sam Hopkins expertly added the extras.
However, following a couple of breakdown infringements, Evesham allowed Lions into their half and a lapse in concentration at the ruck allowed the opposition scrum half to snipe and scramble over.
At 7-7, the rest of the first half remained competitive and fairly balanced. Evesham had chances through Josh Sands and company but were unable to cross again and on the stroke of half time the Lions were awarded a penalty which allowed them to go into half time 10-7 up.
Still full of belief, Evesham rallied again in the second half. Again a tough and bruising encounter saw both teams battling valiantly and scrum time posed a perfect opportunity for Chambers, Dan Humpston and Sands to link up and the smart thinking and quick feet of Sands saw him cross in the corner. Hopkins again slotted over the conversion from the touchline in his usual flawless fashion to put his side 14-10 up.
With the scoreboard showing five minutes left, but the referee noting 20 minutes, Evesham were aware of the difficult final quarter ahead and late in the game the Lions fly half found a rare gap in the Evesham back line and raced clear.
Having been chopped down ten metres out, Lions were able to retain the ball and cross for a try which was not converted but proved enough to give them the lead.
With only a few minutes left on the clock, Evesham needed to get into the Lions’ half in the hope of kicking three points.
In yet another twist, Lions were penalised for going off their feet at the breakdown and Hopkins again stood up in attempt to win the game for the Avonsiders.
Unfortunately though, the difficult attempt was unsuccessful and thus the game was over.
In addition to this weekend’s final home game of the season – in which a large and vocal support is encouraged – the fourth annual beer and music festival is being staged. With fun for all the family, live bands, a selection of food, beer, Prosecco and Pimm’s flowing, please come down and support the club.