RUGBY: Kesteven lose return match in closing minutes

Midlands League 3

East (North)

Out of reach: A line-out throw eludes both Kesteven and Sleaford players. Photo: Toby Roberts

Out of reach: A line-out throw eludes both Kesteven and Sleaford players. Photo: Toby Roberts

Kesteven 10

Sleaford 13

Pitch lines were cleared of snow and marked and Kesteven were ready to welcome their nearest rivals from Sleaford for the return match.

The home team had the benefit of the strong wind in the first half and this, together with the cold, turned out to have a bearing on the outcome.

It did not take long for Kesteven to take the lead. A loose ball was hacked through by Sleaford. James Goodrich picked up and ran straight and strong, handing off a tackle to go under the bar for the opening try. Whittaker’s conversion opened up a seven point lead in as many minutes.

This set them up for all-out assault on the Sleaford line. They wanted to play fast rugby and opted to run a number of kickable penalties, but the visitors were able to hold out.

Gavin Purvis again gave a great lead with several strong runs, closely followed by Will Pert and Mark Sayle.

The cold and greasy ball made handling difficult and the backs never really got away. In the end Whittaker added a penalty after 30 minutes to take the lead to 10-0 at the break.

Kesteven were forced into a change at half time with the loss of James Goodrich through injury. Parker came on at stand-off, with Olly Wood moving to centre.

Sleaford came out to start the second half fully fired up to take the game to Kesteven. They clearly felt that 10 points was recoverable and within three minutes they had cut the deficit with a strongly worked try. The conversion meant that the Kesteven lead was cut to a precarious three points.

Sleaford used the wind well with some intelligent kicking, keeping Kesteven pinned back. On the few occasions the home team got into the Sleaford half, a handling error or a turnover would be punished with a deep kick, forcing them back into their own 22.

Sayle left the field after 10 minutes of the half, replaced by Leo Vincent, and then 10 minutes later Sleaford levelled the scores with a well taken penalty.

The tale continued along the lines of Sleaford pressure on the Kesteven line and the home team tackled and tackled. Their discipline was good and they largely avoided giving away penalties.

Just when it looked like they would hold out for the draw, Ks were penalised at a maul 30 metres out with five minutes remaining. The crowd held their breath as the ball was placed on the tee. The Sleaford kicker kept the ball low, judging the wind perfectly for the ball to squeeze in over the bar.

This was the decisive moment and Sleaford held out comfortably for the final five minutes, and their delight at reversing the result from the first match was obvious.

Gavin Purvis was awarded man of the match for his storming performance in the loose.

Kesteven: Whittaker, R. Jordan, Jepson, Goodrich, Cartwright, Wood, Draper, Purvis, Sheardown, Osborne, Pert, Cowley, Webster, Payne, Sayle. Reps: Parker, Vincent, Hayward.