Golden-boy Hyam sends Royals to the Grand Final

Leamington Royals celebrate Tom Hyam's match-winning drop goal. Picture: Tim Nunan
Leamington Royals celebrate Tom Hyam's match-winning drop goal. Picture: Tim Nunan

Leamington Royals claimed the most dramatic of victories in the semi-final of the Midlands Premier League play-offs, in the process avenging a 54-20 defeat at the hands of Coventry Dragons just two weeks previously.

Dragons had swept all before them in the league, finishing the regular season unbeaten.

However, the home side made a lacklustre start and were quickly trailing.

Adam Clifford benefited from a barnstorming run by Andy Morrison to cross under the posts and then Ricky Alford stripped the home full-back and fed Simon Gardner to touch down.

Dragons responded with a converted try before Morrison crossed for his 21st try of the campaign, barging his way through two would-be tacklers.

A handling error gifted the Dragons wing an unconverted try but shortly before half-time Clifford snuck between two markers to go over and give the visitors a 20-12 interval lead .

Dragons came out for the restart full of intent and following another brutal collision, Royals’ Gaz Evans saw yellow for tip-tackling his opposite number.

A man down, Leamington were camped on their own line for two repeat sets but brave defence allowed them to see out the danger.

Remarkably, they then went up the other end for Gardner to add his second try of the day.

Restored to 13, Royals were playing with confidence and moved the ball wide on the fifth tackle with Morrison firing a bullet of a pass to Will Cox who scythed his way through for an excellent team try.

With ten minutes remaining and Royals 32-20 up an upset looked on the cards.

However, Coventry showed their class when their influential loose forward crossed for a converted try.

The same player then side-stepped his way through a tiring defence for another converted score to bring the scores level.

And, with seconds remaining, it needed a superb cover tackle from Paul Salvin to deny Dragons’ flying winger a match-winning try.

The final whistle signalled golden point extra-time and both teams completed a couple of edgy but safe sets before Coventry were awarded a penalty in the Royals territory.

The Dragons prop offloaded to his half-back who sent a drop goal looping agonisingly towards Leamington’s posts.

The ball struck the upright and bounced safely into the arms of visiting captain Steve Alford who set off on a counter-attack to live long in the memory.

Alford passed the ball from under his own posts to Adam Clifford who in turn drew his man and passed to Ricky Alford who sidestepped his opposite man and set off on a dazzling run. He was tackled agonisingly close to the line but he fed Wellings who in turn passed to Salvin who took the tackle.

The ball was recycled to Tom Hyam who struck the sweetest of drop goals from 20 metres on the angle to send Royals to their first Grand Final where they will meet Northampton Demons.