Royals unable to draw comfort from champion display

Liam Wellings was an integral part of a terrific team effort from Leamington Royals at Northampton Demons.
Liam Wellings was an integral part of a terrific team effort from Leamington Royals at Northampton Demons.
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Leamington Royals gave Mildand Premier League champions Northampton Demons an almighty scare last Saturday with only a failed conversion with the last kick of the match denying them a deserved draw.

Northampton kicked off on a glorious afternoon and took advantage of two unforced errors from Royals to open up an early ten-point lead.

However, the visitors did not panic and scored two quickfire tries of their own to pull level.

Centre Paul Salvin went over in the corner following a pre-planned move which saw forward Andy Morrison race through the defensive line and then Liam Wellings touched down in the corner after good work by forwards Andre Martins and Ben Nuttall.

With the half coming to a close, Northampton took advantage of a couple of contentious penalties for stripping the ball to score a converted try.

Royals, though, had the final say of the half, Wellings forcing a turnover which led to a solid set, finished off by a try for Morrison converted by Si Gardner.

Demons regained their lead after the interval with a try mired in controversy.

A Demons player crossed the line for what seemed like a simple score, but the never-say-die Salvin produced a last-ditch tackle, forcing him to drop the ball.

It looked a knock-on but the referee saw it differently and when a Northampton player dropped on the spilt ball, he awarded the try.

Royals introduced full-back Andy Morgan and he had an immediate impact, forcing his way over following a ruck under the posts with two Demons players clinging on to him.

Gardner slotted the conversion to tie the scores once again at 22-all.

It was then Northampton’s turn to make an inspired substitution with their debutant utility back entering the fray on the back of National League rugby union at Coventry.

His first contribution was to win the foot race after Demons kicked early in their set to score a converted try.

With the clock ticking down and Leamington camped on their own try line, loose forward Ben Warman stole the ball from his opposite number and fed it to full-back Will Cox, who made good yards out of Royals territory.

Again Morrison broke the defensive line and stormed 60 metres downfield before being hauled down agonisingly close to the Demons line by the covering winger.

However, the ball was then fed to prop John Wheelhouse who crashed over seconds before the final whistle.

There was more controversy when the referee adjudged Wheelhouse to have scored in the corner when it appeared he had touched down ten metres from the touchline.

Faced with a more difficult conversion to tie the match, Gardner sent his kick on its way and it was the home team who were celebrating as it drifted agonisingly wide of the posts.