Royals not bullish about play-off hopes after defeat at Buxton

Andy Morrison's two tries proved in vain as Leamington Royals went down at Buxton. Picture: Tim Nunan

Andy Morrison's two tries proved in vain as Leamington Royals went down at Buxton. Picture: Tim Nunan

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Leamington Royals’ Midland Premier League play-off hopes suffered a massive setback with a 28-22 defeat at Buxton Bulls.

The defeat leaves Royals one place outside the play-off positions and realistically needing to win their last three games - one of which is against table-topping Coventry - to extend their season.

Buxton have had mixed fortunes in their first season in the league, but boasted a strong home record.

However, Royals were immediately on the offensive and scored two tries inside the first 15 minutes.

Simon Gardner dotted down after finding a gap at the ruck and Andy Morrison smashed his way through on a trademark run, with both tries converted by Tom Hyam.

The tide of the game was to quickly turn after a Leamington error in midfield.

A dropped ball was fly-hacked downfield by a Buxton player and Adam Clifford cynically tackled a player off the ball to receive a yellow card.

The home side used their extra man to their advantage, scoring an unconverted try in the corner.

Royals were then left frustrated by a number of controversial calls from the local referee.

Gardner thought he had gone over for his second try but was called back for a crossing incident that only the official saw. Then prop Ben Nuttall was penalised for continuing to play after a tackle despite not being held by an opposition player or the referee having called the tackle.

As a result of the second infringement and following repeat sets, Buxton’s influential half-back picked out a forward to cross next to the posts.

Leamington still held a 12-10 advantage at the interval but plays were being forced and players were starting to niggle at the referee, which resulted in quickfire penalties against the away side.

Buxton sensed a scalp and were playing the better, more aggressive, controlled rugby.

This resulted in two quickfire converted tries after the break, with the hosts utilising their powerful runners against a Royals side which was beginning to wilt in the heat of the afternoon.

Once the second try went over, Leamington composed themselves and after a good repeat set, Gardner scooted over for his second of the game.

Not to be outdone, Morrison then crashed over for his second in a carbon copy of the first try, with Hyam converting to bring the sides level.

But buoyed on by a partisan crowd, Buxton were going to have the last say in the match after yet more ill discipline from Leamington.

And, after a good move, their hooker sent their loose forward over for a converted try.