Ludlow RUFC 32 Lichfield RUFC 32

After the excitement of their semi final win over Worcester, Lichfield returned to league action with a tough trip to Ludlow, lying third in the league and still very much in the promotion hunt.

The Myrtle Greens, who were expecting a tough battle, had those expectations reinforced in the first 10 minutes when Ludlow went 10-0 ahead through a penalty and converted try.

Lichfield responded magnificently and Gareth Brear found himself on the end of two passages of enterprising play in the 13th and 24th minute to score two tries, the first following a great incursion from Mark Rose and the second converted by Greg Massey and Lichfield edged ahead 12-10.

Ludlow responded in a positive way and scored two fine tries of their own, the second converted and Lichfield were facing the half time team talk with a deficit of 22 points to 12.

The second half began in a positive fashion. Lichfield forwards were now gaining momentum. The line out was functioning well and Gabbitass was finding his man with increasing regularity.

The tight five of Sowden, Gabbitass, Bassett, Hicks and Menmuir were dominant at the set piece but were incurring the wrath of the referee who gave at least a dozen free kicks or penalties against them for a selection of infringements and this was undoubtedly disrupting Lichfield’s continuity.

The back row of Thompson, Burton and Smith were being severely tested by their opposite numbers who had the advantage of being able to play with a lot more possession thanks to the interpretation of the laws by the match official but remained dogged and determined all afternoon.

However Lichfield have not remained unbeaten since November 7 due to a lack of courage and commitment and came storming back at their hosts.

Greg and Luke Massey, together with Tom Adams in the midfield were endeavouring to play enterprising rugby and in the 46th minute came the best try of the game. The forwards presented the backs with  quality ball and a fine move in midfield between the Massey’s and Tom Adams put Jack Sporcic into space, he hit a great line between two defenders and offloaded to the dynamic Brear who raced in for the score and Lichfield were back in the game 22-17 down.

Three minutes later, Will Cotterhill, replacing the hard working Jim Clarke,  got in on the act cutting a fine line after some dynamic driving forward play to go over near the posts, Massey converting and Lichfield were back in front 24-22.

In the 56th minute the opportunistic Brear intercepted 5 metres from his own try line and raced the length of the field to score and stretch Lichfield’s lead to 29-22.

Minutes later and the game took another turn, Ludlow scoring a converted try to put them level 29-29. Upton replaced Menmuir to inject some fresh impetus and Lichfield went into the final quarter determined to get a result.

Lichfield’s contingent of loyal support who had made the long journey to Ludlow were urging on their team  and in the 64th minute Luke Massey converted a long range penalty to put Lichfield in front again at 32-29.

Three minutes later and in front of their posts the referee penalised the Lichfield defence for being offside, the first such penalty of the afternoon and Ludlow drew level at 32-32.

Lichfield almost scored at the death when the Ludlow pack twice collapsed a scrum being driven over under their posts but escaped being penalised and indeed it would have been harsh on either side to have lost at such a late stage.

All Ludlow’s’ points were scored by their centre and Gareth Brear was the main points score for Lichfield.

Lichfield can be proud of their efforts; they outscored their hosts by five tries to four and remained defiant to the end.

They have played a lot of competitive rugby this season and to maintain the level of performance needed  to be successful on three fronts requires a lot of skill and no small measure of resilience and determination all of which were on display at Ludlow.

The players know that their performance fell short of what has been expected of them this season but are keen to put the record straight with a more complete showing at near rivals Stafford this Saturday, where they know their championship credentials will again be severely tested.

Lichfield: Sowden, Gabbitass, Bassett (c), Hicks, Menmuir, Burton, Smith, Thompson; Clark, L Massey, Sporcic, Adams, G Massey, Brear, Rose. Subs: Taylor, Upton and W Cotterhill.

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