Rosslyn Park 38 Loughborough 17

Strong winds affect both teams in latest National 1 game at Priory Lane

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As a spectacle the match was badly affected by strong winds, which made spreading the ball really difficult. In the circumstances both sides produced as good a match as was possible. With the exception of the opening ten minutes of the second half Rosslyn Park controlled things well enough that a bonus point win was never really in doubt after their first score.

Park started with the strong wind at their backs, but Loughborough showed no little skill in playing possession rugby to deny their hosts the ball for long periods.

When Loughborough finally surrendered possession it was in the form of a penalty, hammered to the visiting 22 by fly half Scott Sneddon, but Park failed to properly control their own ball.

The visitors continued to try to run at Park until skipper Hugo Ellis intervened to block the ball and hack on, nearly setting up a try for winger Tom Howe but for some alert defending by his opposite number.

A good move from Park on 13 minutes won a penalty in front of the posts and saw visiting prop Harry Elrington sin-binned for killing the ball. Park opted instead for a scrum, and scrum half Luke Carter popped over just to the left of the posts, converting his own effort for 7-0.

Park tried to press home their numerical advantage but the visitors defended well, denying them possession. No sooner were they back to full complement than Carter popped up to worm his way through for his second try, converted by Sneddon for 14-0 on 24 minutes.

The margin did not look big enough to defend into the wind in the second half, but while Park were mostly in control the conditions allowed few memorable passages of play. Park were patient and reward came in the form of a penalty on 35 minutes, hammered to touch. Park set up a solid attack on a well-defended Loughborough line, eventually producing an attack up the left for winger Joe Ajuwa to power over for 19-0 at the interval.

That lead was made to look slender indeed as Loughborough, borne on the wind, made a dream start to the second period. Park attacked but the visitors produced a superb counter to win a penalty. The ball was hammered to the corner for a throw and replacement Jacob Fields plunged over to score, fly half Will Edwards converting for 19-7.

The visitors now quite literally had the wind in their sails and Park were forced into defence. A good kick sailed towards Park’s corner and the ball was eventually worked to Fields who again delivered the goods, this time out wide. The conversion was missed, but with only ten minutes gone of the second half and the score at 19-12 things looked distinctly dodgy for the home side.

Come the hour, come the man – and the man in this case was Park flanker Sam Shires, whose powerful sprint through the middle split asunder the Loughborough defence for a cracking individual try. Sneddon converted and 26-12 on 58 minutes looked a lot more comfortable, having also pocketed the 4-try bonus.

Suddenly Loughborough appeared becalmed and Park re-established general control. With everything coming together again, Park pressed on and another good raid saw Ajuwa nearly break through. Park set up a big attack close to the line and lock Richard Boyle plunged over out wide. Sneddon made the conversion – nigh on impossible in the conditions – look easy for 33-12 on 65 minutes.

Loughborough made a spirited attempt to come back and were rewarded with a good try up the left, with a snaking run from replacement Tom James bringing a try for 33-17 with ten minutes to go.

Almost from kick off they tried another good attack up the right, the 4-try bonus now within reach, but Park’s defence was equal to it.

The match was put beyond any doubt by a powerful run into the 22 by Ellis, with the ball passed around to probe for an opening until Ajuwa didn’t really need one and forced his way over for 38-17 on 74 minutes.

Game Loughborough gave everything in a last desperate attempt to at least get a point, but when fly half Edwards tried to dance around defenders in front of well-defended posts he inevitably eventually bumped into his own player to bring a penalty for ‘crossing’ and that was their last chance.

Park well deserved their win, and towards the end had produced some entertaining stuff that defied the elements.
Park: Edwards; Howe, Richards, Ireland, Ajuwa; Sneddon; Carter; Liffchak, Bellamy, MacKenzie; Treadwell, Boyle; McFarlane, Shires, Ellis
Subs: Wright, Lundberg, Inglis, Davies, Broughton.
Park scorers: Carter (2T, C), Ajuwa (2T), Shires (T), Boyle (T), Sneddon (3C)

January 11, 2015