MIDLANDS Two East South leaders Huntingdon Stags turned in their worst performance of the season, but still managed to scrape a 13-8 win away from home at lowly Vipers on Saturday.
“The first part of our focus was to get the win and we have done that, but it was far from clinical,” said Stags coach Damian Wales. “We probably played at six out of 10, seven would be far too generous.”
Stags were under pressure early on as the Leicestershire side tried to take the visitors on up front. But for the second 20 minutes of the first-half, Stags rallied and played much of the half in Vipers’ own territory.
Penalties were awarded but Huntingdon elected to go for tries rather than take the easy points on offer. These gambles did not pay off and Vipers thwarted numerous drives while simple errors also spared the home side from a thrashing.
Stags finally got on the score sheet when skipper Ben Strangeways latched onto a loose ball from a five-yard scrum and managed to cross the whitewash. The conversion was missed.
The second half continued in a similar fashion with poor decisions and errors letting the Stags down.
With 15 minutes remaining, Dan Malem gave Stags the lead with a penalty goal, but Vipers levelled the match with a penalty of their own.
With just eight minutes left, Stags again took the lead as a ball popped out of a ruck on the Vipers’ 22 and into the hands of veteran lock Lee Osborne who put a chip kick ahead.
The cover defence managed to collect the ball but as they tried to clear their lines Osborne, chasing his own kick up, charged down the clearing kick and dived on the ball to score.
“Vipers are a decent side,” said Wales. “I know they haven’t won a game yet but they have had some narrow losses against good opposition.
“It was perfect conditions for rugby: cool, dry and still and a deck just like a carpet, so we only have ourselves to blame.”
Midlands Two East South results: Bugbrooke 36-17 Lutterworth, Dunstablians 48-7 Biggleswade, Leighton Buzzard 48-15 Northampton Old Scouts, Northampton BBOB 33-15 Oadby Wyggestonians, Vipers 8-13 Huntingdon & District, Wellingborough 6-18 Market Harborough.
Meanwhile, St Neots remain top of the Midlands Four East South division following their fifth league win on the bounce.
Not to be outdone, however, St Ives are also on a straight run of five out of five, but have picked up a bonus point less than their Huntingdonshire rivals.
This, quite simply, is shaping up to be a cracker of a season…
It was their 40-11 win at Aylestone Athletic that kept the Saints ahead of the chasing pack.
Jon Hopewell crashed over the line for their first try, while No 8 Lewis Hall added a second when he was allowed to stroll to the line from 10 yards.
Following a month out of action, Rhod Howcroft returned to first-team duties when he replaced injured teammate Jim Norton – and Hall scored again before half-time for 21-6.
In the second half Phil Sandling scored in between two tries from Dan Glover, who finished off the game with a trademark solo effort. Head coach Tim Russell said: “I spoke to the lads at half-time and asked them to keep the ball in hand and back themselves when attacking, not kick and chip it away as we had done in the first half.
“Once we had reverted to that game plan, Aylestone would only ever get scrappy balls from our mistakes and we had the game won.”
St Ives continued their unbeaten run with a classy 65-0 win at Corby.
With head coach Alan Hine away in Norway, in his other role as coach of the Finnish national side, the Bulls made it five wins from five games but remain fourth in the table.
Paul Ashbridge opened the scoring with a penalty and skipper Jim Robinson broke Corby’s defence to score the first try.
Ashbridge, Jack Blackley and Mike Goggin piled on the points in the first half and, just before half-time, Ashbridge grabbed his second try of the afternoon before turning provider for Robinson to score his second. Will Mandley, Blackley, Luke Slade and Goggin all added to St Ives’ points tally as the club completely dominated the match in the second half.
Midlands Four East South results: Aylestone Athletic 11-40 St Neots, Corby 0-65 St Ives, Stamford College Old Boys 14-36 Brackley, Thorney 51-12 Bourne, Wellingborough OG 6-41 Bedford Swifts, Westwood 7-89 Oundle.