Northern RUFC 29 Lichfield RUFC 23

Lichfield RUFC’s dreams of a Twickenham final were dashed as they fell to their first away defeat of the season at the hands of North League champions Northern by one score.

Roared on by a massive crowd who had made the lengthy trip to Newcastle on Tyne the game couldn’t have started better. Great ball from the set piece saw Will Cotterhill feed Luke Massey who ran a fine line off Tom Addams to feed Greg Massey. He burst the line and put Gareth Brears away to round the defence and score in the corner to give the visitors a 5-0 lead in the third minute.

Northern responded with a try and conversion in the eighth minute to edge ahead and the scene was set for a real battle between two good sides.

Lichfield dominated the scrums, the front five of Bassett, Gabitas, Sowden , Squires and Hicks giving their opponents a torrid time all afternoon and not receiving their just desserts with the referee allowing the opposition front row to continually pop up without punishment. The line out functioned well but the opposition driving maul caused problems all afternoon and it was drom one such maul that the referee made a huge call to award a penalty try and allow Northern to go into half time 14-5 ahead.

Lichfield were still confident of getting a result. The back row of Smith, Burton and Thompson were beginning to dominate their opponents and Will Cotterhill and Luke Massey were calm and controlling the tempo of the game well.

Greg Massey and Tom Adams in the midfield were a constant threat in attack and solid in defence and George Cotterhill, Brears and Matty Brown were linking well and always looked menacing.

In the 44th minute Tom Addams hit a hole and powered over to score, Greg Massey converting  and Lichfield were right back in the game at 14-12.

Disaster then struck in the 48th minute. With Lichfield dominating Northern set up another maul in the 22 and drove over to go ahead 19-12.

Greg Massey kept Lichfield in the game with a penalty in the 55th minute to make it 19-15 and Lichfield were creating chances but the final pass went begging. At this stage it looked a matter of time before Lichfield took control but against the run of play Northern struck again in 60th minute, their powerful replacement back row powering over after some close quarter driving play from the Northern forwards.

At 24-15 Northern may have felt safe but roared on by the Lichfield crowd they came storming back and Brears raced away from deep to outstrip the cover defence and pull Lichfield back to within one score at 24-20.

Lichfield brought on Chris Addams, Dan Taylor and Jack Sporcic to introduce some fresh impetus. Taylor carried on Sowdens fine work, Addams made an immediate impact with fresh legs in the back row and Sporcic showed his pace would be a menace to the Northern defence.

The Myrtle Greens kept creating chances but just failed to nail the final pass and after forcing the game were caught short when Northern snatched what proved to be the decisive score in the 70th minute to pull two scores clear at 29-20.

A Massey penalty reduced the deficit to on score at 29-23 and a Lichfield win was still a possibility, the players and the travelling support remaining positive to the end.

The final two minutes saw the big Northern pack tie up the ball and play down the clock for a 29-23 win.

The Lichfield support gave the players a massive boost at the end of the game remaining to cheer the distraught team off the pitch.

Captain Dave Bassett said after the game:

“This was a game we could have won and home advantage played a part. But this has been a marvellous season for the us and every one of the 23 man squad on Saturday had come through the Lichfield mini and junior section, testament to the strength in depth in the club and to the quality coaching that goes on every weekend.

“I know the players and coaches would like to pay tribute to the fantastic support they have received all season and look forward to repaying the fans with a successful campaign in Midlands 1 next season.”

Lichfield: Sowden, Gabbitass, Bassett (c), Hicks, Squire, Burton, Smith, Thompson; W Cotterhill, L Massey, Brown, Adams, G Massey, G Cotterhill, Brear. Subs: Taylor, Knibbs, Axon, Upton, Butler, Antcliffe, Rose and Sprocic.

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