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Lichfield RUFC take the spoils in top of the table clash against Burton

Lichfield RUFC battled stretched their lead at the top of the table with a fine display to beat local rivals Burton 15-10.

The fires had been well and truly stoked prior to the arrival of Burton, with the visitors promising a tough test. But the city side showed grit and determination to come out on top in testing conditions.

Lichfield kicked off into the wind and Burton took advantage of the strong gusts to pin the hosts back into their half. It was always going to be a difficult day for running rugby, but both teams were full of trying.

The result of the early exchanges was a scrum due to a knock on. The scrum was to prove a huge talking point for the day, as both sides felt aggrieved by it at times. It was Burton who had the rub of the green to start and were awarded a penalty just inside the Lichfield half, but the attempt at goal sailed wide.

The hosts’ running game was becoming more fluent and excellent interplay saw them break into the 22, but the timing of the run and execution of the final pass saw the try squandered.

But the visitors were constantly penalised at the breakdown and when they got another chance the home side tapped a quick penalty and found space. In Burton’s desperation, they left a hole for Luke Massey to dance through, feeding the oncoming backs to get in behind and leave a two on one for Greg Massey to finish off an excellent team move.

Burton were living off the Lichfield handling errors, allowing their scrum to put them in good positions. The home defence never looked like being breached by runners, but a neat kick through saw Archer slide onto the ball and over the line. The conversion was missed and the scores were tied at five all.

The hosts were having to defend for long periods, but never really looked troubled. Burton failed to capitalise on the conditions. A faltering line out and Lichfield’s dominance saw their attempts squashed.

The visitors were to have another penalty attempt at goal but this again sailed wide.

Lichfield went in at half time level, knowing they would have the wind at their back and happy with the hard shift they had put in during the opening 40 minutes. Burton, meanwhile, had missed eight points in kicks and those misses were to prove the difference.

The Myrtle Greens showed their intent straight from the kick off, Dan Rowlands powering his way into the Burton half. His intended kick wasn’t what he had hoped for, but the return saw Lichfield regain possession in the Burton half. This was where almost the entire half was played, noted mainly by the state of the pitch at the end of the whistle.

The home side rectified their scrum, and were awarded a penalty for their efforts, which Josh Massey converted.

Burton’s backs were getting their hands on the ball more, but Lichfield’s fitness and skill at the breakdown was seeing the ball turned over and penalties being awarded.

The pressure finally told as a catch and drive set up a series of close attacks from which Nick Southern scored. Josh Massey converted and the hosts stretched their lead to 15-5.

Lichfield were squeezing Burton in every department now, and a great series of interplay saw Tom Adams held up just short of the line on the far touch line.

The visitors rarely broke out of their half, but a quick tap penalty followed by some high tackles allowed them to play through several phases. This passage of play saw the ball fall to Betty who held up two defenders before offloading for Burton to go over in the corner. The conversion was missed, and the final ten minutes were to be a close encounter.

Lichfield kept their visitors pinned in their own half, and the scrum tables had turned as the home pack began to power Burton backwards and see the game out.

The gap at the top of the league is now out to 23 points but there is still plenty of rugby to be played and Lichfield will need to keep working hard over the next seven league games which remain.

This weekend they have a rest week, with the seconds playing Burton at home in the league cup semi-final (2.15pm kick off). The firsts are back in action at third placed Hereford on March 1, kick off 3pm.

Lichfield: Taylor, Clarke, Bassett (c), Thompson, Southern, Taplin, Milner, Burton; Evans, L Massey, J Massey, Maxwell-Keys, Adams, D Rowlands, G Massey. Subs: Gabbitass, Prior and Wedgwood.

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