First-half resilience from Southam lays the platform for derby success
A resilient first-half display from Southam earned them a derby win in testing conditions which saw players, officials and supporters buffet by rain, wind and hail.
Leamington had the advantage of the wind in the first half and started the game full of energy.
They were confident in their lineout play, where skipper Craig Smith was prominent, as he initially stole the home ball to set up an early attack, then, shortly after, took his own ball to set up a series of pick and goes to pressurise the Southam defence.
The Leamington back line also exuded early self-reliance when Danny Ruyssevelt linked with centre Toby Bruce to almost unlock the home side.
Then a clever kick ahead from Ruyssevelt once again unnerved the home defence.
Playing against the elements, Southam had been called upon to defend in depth and although tested, their try line had not been crossed.
With 20 minutes having elapsed they eventually worked their way up the field. Forward drives and strong running from fly-half Harry Hewson and centres Pete Burnell and Tom Grimes got them up to the line but in the end they had to settle for a penalty for offside converted by captain Will Grindal.
Leamington responded with relish with full-back Sam Nunn sending in a dangerous kick and then Bruce and Tom Daplyn combining to test the Southam defence.
This pressure did finally bring reward, earning the visitors a penalty that was kicked for lineout possession.
Now deep in the Southam 22, Danny Phillips’ throw was taken cleanly by Tom Lane, allowing his forwards to set up a rolling maul.
With the ball being driven forward, Phillips was on hand to get the all-important touchdown.
The conversion was missed to leave the visitors with a slender 5-3 lead at the interval, with the weather proving so harsh that the players retired to the changing rooms for the ten-minute break.
The start of the second period heralded a few minutes respite from the wind and rain and Leamington had the better of the play early on, with strong running from Daplyn and Ruyssevelt again causing problems.
In a half riddled with handling and lineout errors, the home team could not get any purchase in the Leamington 22, with only resolute defence and increasing scrum dominance keeping them in the game.
However, the Southam pack kept the Leamington scrum under continuous pressure, stealing balls against the head and forcing penalties.
From a scrum penalty Grindal converted from 25 metres to edge his side in front.
Leamington responded with some fine penetrative running from scrum-half Patrick Northover.
However, with ball handling made treacherous by the freezing conditions, the Southam scrum kept up the pressure and got them back upfield.
As the half closed, Grindal landed another penalty for not rolling away and with barely 40 minutes played the referee completed formalities to save the crowd, players and himself from further punishment.