Leamington again come up just short despite a valiant effort

Leamington fly-half Richard McKowen outpaces the Evesham defence. Pictures: Ken Pinfold
Leamington fly-half Richard McKowen outpaces the Evesham defence. Pictures: Ken Pinfold
  • Midlands Two west (South)
  • Evesham 13 Leamington 12

For the second week running, Leamington were involved in a tense, nail-biting match that went down to the wire, with Evesham shading it by just a point.

Playing on a very heavy pitch which had felt the full and adverse effects of the recent wet weather, Leamington opened up with a barrage of attacks, putting the home side immediately on the back foot.

They soon took the lead when Tom Lane claimed lineout ball and was driven to the Evesham line before Gareth Shuttleworth stepped in to get the final touch. Maximum points were achieved when Jim Robertson slotted over the conversion.

The visitors continued to press home their advantage at this stage, emphasised by a strong, penetrative run from fly-half Richard McKowen.

The Leamington pack were also working hard to contain their much bigger opponents in these opening exchanges.

There is definitely a pleasing rhythm to their play this season as they are rarely troubled in the scrum. The lineout catch and drive has been devastating throughout the campaign and the pick and drive in both defence and attack has been very effective.

With John Brear back, both he, Aled Thomas, Craig Smith and Tom Lane made themselves available as first receiver to put pressure on the Evesham defence.

With 15 minutes having passed, the home side had rarely strayed from their own half. However, they were about to be presented with a huge chunk of good luck. A clearance by Leamington appeared of little danger until a tricky bounce fell kindly into the arms of an Evesham attacker, allowing an easy run-in and a converted score.

It was certainly against the run of play and Leamington were soon on the attack again when winger Garrett Bell fielded a deep clearance kick and set about a direct run before off-loading to fellow winger Kenny Kwok who continued the pressure. Then another run by McKowen nearly brought a score as Kwok and centre Toby Bruce rushed to support before Evesham finally cleared the danger.

Before the half drew to a close, Leamington conceded a couple of penalties, both of which the home side kicked, to give them a slender six-point advantage at the interval.

The home side knew they had a tough game on their hands and were first to show some positivity in the opening minutes of the second period with some effective attacking play. Bell finally came to Leamington’s rescue with a long clearance kick to touch.

Leamington then found themselves gifted a couple of quick penalties, both of which were driven into touch by Patrick Northover to put his side in strong attacking positions. However, on both occasions the Evesham defence were alert to the danger of the potential catch and drive and managed to clear.

Full-back Sam Nunn then took delivery of a high clearance kick to put his side back on to the attack as Leamington once again took control of the game.

Another penalty allowed Northover to kick for position and although Evesham’s defence initially held up the drive, Leamington were quick to move the ball inside to McKowen, who immediately ran at the home defence. The ball was retained and switched again to the left into the hands of Shuttleworth whose delightful dummy pass unlocked the home defence, allowing McKowen room to get the ball over in the corner. Robertson’s touchline kick fell agonisingly wide.

With a mere point separating the sides, the final minutes were always going to be tense and although chances fell to both sides, neither were able to trouble the scoreboard.