Midlands League 3
Kesteven welcomed near neighbours Sleaford for the first home game of the New Year.
They had plenty of motivation after the defeat at Sileby last week and were keen to reverse the defeat at Sleaford in September.
Kesteven started the match playing into a stiff breeze and their forwards showed up well and took the game to Sleaford. They opened up playing some good open rugby and took the lead with a fine try.
Galloway, who was looking particularly sharp, made a strong run up the middle and spotted space out on the right. Jack Palin was alert to the situation and was up in a flash to pick up the ball and score. The wind made goal kicking difficult and the conversion by Galloway was missed
Shortly afterwards, Sleaford took the lead for the first time with a fine try by their strong running centre. The conversion was good and Sleaford were ahead by two points.
Kesteven were still playing fast open rugby and next it was Draper to open the game up to set up a try which was very similar to the first. This time, Draper made a clean break and when he chipped over the full back, Palin repeated his part by again scooping up the ball to score.
The home team were dominating possession at this point but found it hard to breach the Sleaford defence. It took a bit of Galloway magic to open them up.
He made a quick dart through and chipped over the defence. He gathered his own kick and in a single movement found Tom Price on his elbow to take the pass and run in for a delightful try.
Just before the break, Sleaford closed the gap again with a simple try scored after the visitors were able to pass the ball out to the left wing for a try in the corner. This made the half time score 15-12 to Kesteven, which perhaps flattered the visitors.
The second half started with Sleaford showing that they were equally determined to win and were soon back in the lead.
They quickly won the ball and worked well to get into the home 22. A couple of quick rucks and they ran the ball quickly out to the right to score a try which gave them a 17-15 lead.
Dingley came on to replace the injured Price and now was the time for Kesteven to show their mettle, and it was man-of-the-match Palin who lit up the afternoon.
The forwards won the ball 40 metres out in midfield. Draper and Galloway combined to set Betts up and the centre found Palin on the wing. The youngster set off and turned his opposite number inside out to run clear to the line for his hat trick try.
Kesteven had the lead back and this time they were not about to lose it. Betts gave way to Cox having given a strong performance and Brown came on for Hanson.
Palin looked to have added a fourth try but he knocked on in the act of scoring then Draper had a fine run to the line but was stopped just short. The try was only delayed as the forwards took charge and Cowley forced his way through for Turner to score.
And it was Turner who had the last word when he intercepted a pass in the Sleaford 22 to stroll over. Galloway converted the final two tries to complete a fine win.
Purvis led the side very well and was well supported by Cowley, Hanson and Turner in the pack, Galloway was outstanding in the backs with Draper not far behind – but the star performer was Palin.
Kesteven: Price, Hall, Betts, Halliday, Palin, Galloway, Draper, Pert, Sheardown, Purvis, Cowley, Hanson, Webster, R Armstrong, D Turner. Reps: Cox, Brown, Dingley.
Notts Pennant League
West Bridgford 21
Kesteven arrived at West Bridgford with a bare 15 players, including Colts Ben Bailey and Ben Whinney making his debut.
The visitors were expecting a tough afternoon against a side riding high in the Pennant League and that had comprehensively beaten them at home earlier in the season.
The expected tough afternoon appeared to be confirmed when the lively Bridgford 10 managed to get the ball to their lightning quick full back who raced away from their own 22 to score under the posts.
However, not to be deterred, Kesteven managed to get hold of the ball and play some good phases to make their way up the pitch, Bailey and Bennett both making some good early charges. After a couple of good breaks in midfield, the ball was worked wide and winger Ollie Burns managed to scramble over from close range. Whinney sent the tricky conversion over from the left touchline.
This gave the visitors confidence and they spent the rest of the half camped on the West Bridgford try line. The pressure eventually told when Whinney and Warden put the Bridgford 10 under pressure and charged down his kick which was dotted down by Warden. This gave Kesteven a lead of 12-7 at the break.
Kesteven started the second half well and continued to put pressure on the home side. Danford, Price and Singer were particularly prominent in making ground up the pitch. However, the aggressive Bridgford defence stood firm and proved difficult to breach.
Under pressure following a scrum in their 22, the Bridgford full back put in a speculative kick up the right touch line. The ball sat up nicely on the heavy pitch and he hacked on again, and again . . . Despite Parker valiantly chasing in his wake, the Bridgford played gathered the ball and raced away to score his second.
Two minutes later, the same player got the ball in space and no-one in the Kesteven side could get near him as he completed his hat trick. Both of these tries were converted to give the home side a 21-12 lead with 20 minutes left to play.
The same player would have had his fourth but Udom managed to put in a textbook try-saving tackle to keep the visitors in the game.
The task for the tiring visitors was made even more difficult when they lost Price to a rib injury. However, they then somehow found another gear and scored the try of the afternoon. Parker spotted some space behind the rushing Bridgford defence and put in a chip which centre Jordan gathered. The ball was off-loaded to Charles who put Udom in space. The full back glided down the right touchline and executed a perfect two on one to put Warden in for his second. Whinney converted and Kesteven were back in the game.
Some great pressure at the breakdown by Felton and Robinson was making the home side give away penalties. Parker punished these mistakes with some good deep kicks.
With five minutes to go, a good line-out throw by Bennett was gathered by Warden. The ball was shipped to the back and driven on. Danford organised the move well and dropped on the ball to give Kesteven the lead.
The final few minutes were played at a frantic pace as the home side threw everything at Kesteven. Windsor, who had moved to the back row, got a couple of great turnovers. But Bridgford kept coming back.
With the last play of the game, they won a kickable penalty and, after some debate, opted to go for the points to draw the game. The Bridgford 10, who had kicked well all afternoon, pushed the kick just wide and the final whistle went.
This was a fantastic game played between two well matched teams on the day. Kesteven managed to hold on for the win in a game that could have gone either way. Next week they host Lincoln at home which is certain to be another fiercely contested local derby.
Kesteven: Bennett, Danford, Felton, Robinson, Singer, Bailey, Warden, Price, Whinney, Parker, Charles, Jordan, Windsor, Udom.