Royals are unable to slay Demons in Grand Final

Ricky Alford crosses for Leamington Royals' second try against Northampton. Picture: Tim Nunan
Ricky Alford crosses for Leamington Royals' second try against Northampton. Picture: Tim Nunan

Leamington Royals found the Midland League Grand Final one game too many, with reigning champions Northampton Demons consigning them to a 38-12 defeat at Debdale Park.

Royals arrived at the home of Sherwood Wolf Hunt, near Mansfield, buoyed by the previous week’s win over previously unbeaten Coventry Dragons and backed by a coachload of supporters.

Excellent conditions made for a fast-flowing game, with some boneshuddering hits.

A good period of pressure saw Leamington force two goalline dropouts after Ben Nuttall and Ian Grime were held up short but they were unable to make the telling breakthrough.

Northampton soon showed their experience, scoring two quickfire tries after using their impressive centres to make inroads into the Royals defence.

Northampton half-back and man of the match Ben Hanger created two first-half tries, one for winger Jamie Partridge and a contentious penalty try when full-back Will Cox was adjudged to have tackled a player off the ball as they both battled to touch down first.

Hanger then scored himself to give Northampton a healthy 20-0 half-time lead.

Royals also suffered a major setback when captain Steve Alford took an accidental kick to the face, causing him to be momentarily knocked out and forcing him to leave the field.

Early in the second half, a 50-yard effort from powerful centre Tom Bailey gave Demons a 26-0 lead and Leamington were staring down the barrel of a big defeat.

However, the Whitnash side showed the grit and determination that had got them to the final and fought back with two quickfire tries of their own.

Half-back Adam Clifford showed great awareness to sneak through the tiring Demons defence and then Ricky Alford finished well in the corner.

Both were superbly converted by Tom Hyam to make it 26-12 with 20 minutes to go.

During a break in play, both teams were instructed by their respective coaches to pick up the intensity and a brutal set of tackles followed.

Will Johnson sent the Demons prop backwards with a boneshattering hit which forced both players to leave the field. Then the Demons centre made a robust tackle that saw him receive ten minutes in the sin-bin.

Northampton sealed the game in the final minutes with two more tries from centre Mitch Stephenson and full- back Paul Stewart, both converted, to secure back-to-back Premier Division titles.

 Royals’ reward for finishing as the top West Midlands team is a place in the quarter-finals of the Harry Jepson Trophy where they will meet Bedford Tigers on September 5.

The Harry Jepson features the top eight teams in the country at this level with the winners rewarded with a place in the Challenge Cup.