Leamington 12 Nuneaton Old Eds 19: Drop fears increase after Spa let slip a 12-point lead

Hooker Harry Gooch breaks clear for Leamington. Picture: Gina Ruyssevelt
Hooker Harry Gooch breaks clear for Leamington. Picture: Gina Ruyssevelt

With four league games remaining, Leamington sit a precarious third from bottom of the table in what will undoubtedly be a tense finish to the season.

The previous week’s sterling performance against unbeaten league leaders Newbold could not be replicated as Leamington failed to capitalise on their first-half dominance, scoring too few points and then letting in the simplest of tries in the last seconds of the half.

Playing with a strong wind behind them, Leamington began in earnest and were unlucky not to take an early lead as a Jim Robertson penalty from near the half-way line was just off target.

Ross Waterhouse had a strong run at the opposition and then Alex Carroll and Mark Baldwin combined to create a promising opening.

In the sixth minute, a poor kick out of defence by the visitors gave Spa a lineout in Old Eds’ 22.

With the ball secured, Mark Warrilow crashed through to put pressure on the defenders, allowing Leamington to quickly move the ball down the back line. Full-back Nathan Earland joined the attack and ghosted through to score a fine individual try.

Leamington continued to press home their advantage. Mark Baldwin broke clear and found Craig Smith in support up the nearside wing, with the big second-row held up just short of the line.

With Leamington dominating play, it was no surprise when they increased their lead. Craig Smith, using his pace, unlocked the Nuneaton defence and got a good pass out to Baldwin, who raced in under the posts. Robertson slotted the conversion to give his side a 12-point lead.

As the end of the first period approached, a scrum near the half-way line appeared to be of little relevance. However, the visitors claimed possession and raced down the far-side flank to score in the corner, leaving Leamington’s defence in total disarray.

At the turnaround, Leamington soon began to realise the importance of the strong wind as Nuneaton began to test the home defence for concerted periods and Earland and then Matt Patching had to put in solid tackles to stem the flow.

However, 11 minutes in, the visitors broke through for a converted score to draw level.

Three minutes later, Leamington failed to get the ball into touch and allowed Nuneaton possession and enough space to get another converted score.

Now chasing the game, Leamington tried to get back into the match and pressed in the Nuneaton half for long periods.

The pack were as willing as ever to try to break through and Gareth Shuttleworth was always alert to take a quick penalty when the opportunity arose.

But although they had time available, the home side could not break down the stubborn Nuneaton defence.