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Lions beat top of the league

Lions beat top of the league

Gareth Collins15 Oct 2023 - 17:03
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Leicester Lions 26 Rams 24

The Lions scored a try with only two minutes left on the clock to claim a dramatic win against the league leaders who were yet to drop a point this season.

The Lions came out firing and moved the ball with the ambition and width that has characterised the side this season. However two 5 metre lineouts went astray and the visitors were able to work their up the pitch through a series of penalties, and once in the Lions 22 showed the efficient play that has sent them to the top of the table. An initial catch and drive was halted but back row Ben Atkins went over from close range. Fraser Honey added the extras for a 0-7 lead.

The Lions were soon back on the attack though and pressing the visitors' line. The pressure finally told on 25 minutes when hooker Aston Gradwick-Light crashed over following a quick tap from James Stubbs. Lewis added the extras to level the score at 7-7.

Just 5 minutes later a loose lineout throw from the Rams on half way was gathered by the impressive tight-head prop Aaron Dawson who offloaded out of the tackle to man-of-the-match second row Geordie Irvine who outpaced the chasing defenders, dummied the full-back, and went over to give the Lions the lead. Lewis converted again to make the score 14-7.

The Lions were in full flow now and more superb handling released speedy winger Toby Cousins. Unfortunately the ball was knocked on just short of the line though. However the Lions' third try came soon after following some impressive handling from the midfield. Having moved the ball from the right flank to the left in one phase number 8 Nick Cairns found himself free on the edge. Not to be outdone by Irvine's earlier effort, with only the full-back to beat, he dummied and went to run in from 45 metres. Lewis was on target once again to give the Lions a commanding 21-7 lead.

With only one minute left in the half the Lions kicked to the corner, chasing the bonus point try, but unfortunately the lineout went astray again and the Rams launched an attack from their own line. A series of phases got them up the pitch and the impressive move was eventually finished off by full-back Zach Clow to cut the half time deficit to 21-12.

Playing with a steady wind the visitors dominated the early stages of the second period, gaining reward on 49 minutes when winger Jak Rossiter scored out wide. Honey missed the conversion to leave the score poised at 21-17.

With the Rams now in control of the contest, and Nick Cairns in the sin-bin following a string of penalties, the Reading outfit grabbed the lead at the end of the third quarter when Max Hayman drove over at the back of another rolling maul. Honey converted this time for a slender 21-24 lead.

The Lions showed impressive resolve to stay in the contest, repelling a number of Rams attacks, and then with only two minutes left on the clock launched a final attack of their own from deep in their own half. James Stubbs sniped down the right from a breakdown and got a superb offload away to Jamel Hamilton who sent Jake Sterland free on the right wing. He found Dan Lewis inside who sprinted in to snatch a dramatic late lead.

Lewis was off target for the first time of the afternoon, and so with just a two point advantage, there was time for one last potential twist. The Lions failed to claim the kick-off and the Rams went on one final attack. However Fraser Honey was unsuccessful with a drop goal attempt and the Lions celebrated perhaps the most famous win of their 25 year history.

Head coach Gareth Collins commented: ''It's fairy-tale stuff really, but we have felt that we've been slightly unfortunate not to get a few more wins in the last few weeks and knew that we were capable of getting something today. We felt that we had an attacking shape that could cause them some real problems and thankfully that was the case. Credit to Rams though - they showed their class coming back and taking control. To be honest I was just hoping we could hold on to the losing bonus point at the end but fair play to our lads who showed the bravery to go for the win. This first block has been a great experience for our group. We have learnt a lot about ourselves and the level and obviously today's performance will give us a lot of belief going in to the next block.''

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