Long Buckby 38 - 41 Rugby Lions
Yesterday's match tested all of the players, supporters & coaches belief that The Lions were not going any further in the cup & any chance of going to Twickenham was over.
A very nervy start by The Lions knocked the younger players confidence but out of the blue the Lions grabbed 2 great tries with Lawson's storming run along the touch line & Gaz Bott's hard line to the whitewash, both onverted by Bott, took the Lions into a 14-3 lead, then nobody expected the emainder of that half to be so different.
Long Buckby got back in the game moving the ball wide exposing the Lions at their own game with a lethal injection of speed & decision making, clawing back into the game 13-14, the referee's interpretation of contesting the ball at rucks was somewhat confusing, ultimately meaning that each time the Lions contested they got penalised & kicked back to their try line, the Lions had no answer, with worse to come, their No.5 getting binned for an allegedly high tackle then the 15 also getting binned for another confusing ruck contest being penalised, the players & supporters were in shock!! Now down to 13 players.
The Lions slowed the ball down where they could & defended hard but Long Buckby broke through after continuous back line attacks brought just reward taking them into a lead 20-14, momentum had changed hands. With still The Lions 15 off the field the Long Buckby back line showed their class in defence taking space & forcing mistakes, something the Lions back line had not faced this season & had little answer, conceding 2 further tries to lead 32-14.
The game had turned in favour of Long Buckby, with the Lions players deflated & mentally tested unsure if there was a way back into this game that felt what ever the Lions did was not going to work. Looks of disbelief & heads down said it all. This was not part of the game plan. A game plan change & belief from the unknown was needed & it was served up in spirit that I've never seen or experienced before, the Lions never say die attitude through the ranks was unbelievable, something that will stay with me forever.
The Lions had realised that Long Buckby could not take on the Lions forwards & had decided not to compete at line outs but to defend, the ferocious tackling & hard lines got the Lions back into the game, with Collins jinking run from half way cutting through the Buckby defence & scoring gave some belief. The Lions needed ball & to keep it, playing to their strengths & keeping it tight.Opportunities wasted close to the line was hard to swallow with so much at stake, but back the Lions came with a driving lineout from the 22, not breaking away but keeping it tight, with Everton emerging from the bottom with the ball, now 32-26 & the Lions were trying to do the impossible.
Another lineout & scrum, scrapping for everything with players smashing anything in green to restore some pride in themselves & believe they could still win,another forward play with Everton scoring to close the gap to just one point,32-31.
Changes by the Lions with Hill, Riley & Kimberley brought much needed fresh power to the pack, they had walked into a match of who wanted it most, how much you were prepared to give to take the title, the game was back to an even keel
with 15 to play. The supporters banter was changing in line with the score board, now it was quiet & they played a big part of pushing on their boys, but the singing of The Lionesses was inspiring, Buckby almost closed out the game taking a penalty pushing the score to 35-31 & again another lapse of concentration which can be excused with the adrenalin the only fuel to push you on, now 38-31, all the guts & determination almost thrown away, until the Lions gave all they had for one last ditch attempt pushing the Buckby team back to their try line & the ball being at the back of a ruck like no other but in the'in goal area' where Kilburn had conceded a try from years previous knew there was no offside line, darted round & grounded the ball, no one knew why or how but it was legal & with the final kick of the 80 minutes, Bott needed the conversion to level the game & play extra time, they say some have nerves of steel in a must kick conversion & it sailed through the sticks to go into extra time!!! This game was breathtaking & physically hurting but the momentum had changed to the Lions who did not deserve to be in with a shout but had given more than any team could to get their pride back.Extra time & Long Buckby were broken, half their starting team had gone & the Lions could sense the unthinkable of winning a match they shouldn't have.
The Lions played with a new desire & belief quickly getting a penalty to three up 38-41, Bott again holding those nerves, but missed narrowly when the same opportunity raised moments later, both teams running on determination alone, the Lions holding strong but in the last 3 minutes were nerve wracking for the Lions, I could not have watched being a supporter. Two lost scrums by the Lions put themselves under the immense pressure, with Buckby choosing a scrum from a penalty knowing a draw would not be enough, they got too close, being held up over the line, scrum again & Buckby came again & again but with only a small lead & knowing Buckby needed a try to win the Lions threw themselves at tackles, forcing a turnover & taking the advantage upfield for Buckby to concede a penalty with no time to play, the dream was still alive,
kicking the ball dead, the mighty Lions had come from the dead & won a game with belief they can go all the way!!
These Lions players have done the impossible for their loyal supporters from the mini's & juniors, the Lionessses & the friends & family that never gave up, we
are all proud to be a Lion today!!!