Leamington edge out derby rivals Earlsdon after second half to savour
After losing two very tough matches against Berkswell & Balsall and Droitwich by a whisker, Leamington finally got reward for their hard work in this, at times, feisty affair.
In a tentative first 20 minutes, neither side managed to make much progress from of the middle of the pitch.
Leamington’s first attack of note followed a link-up between wingers Danny Ruyssevelt and Garrett Bell which ended with the latter earning a penalty after being subjected to a high tackle.
Tom Jewitt drilled the kick into the Earlsdon 22 but the hosts managed to steal possession and send a high kick out of defence. Under pressure, Leamington full-back Sam Nunn fielded the ball and got his side back on the attack with some direct running down the flank. This was a good period for the visitors and although they did not manage to score any points, it showed the opposition were vulnerable in defence.
When it was Earlsdon’s turn to attack, they pressurised Leamington with four quickfire lineouts.
Initially, the Leamington defence held firm. However one passage of play did not meet with the match official’s interpretation of the laws and he was quick to award a penalty try.
Earlsdon gained some impetus through this score and it took a firm kick out of defence from Patrick Northover to clear one dangerous attack and then Toby Bruce put in a crunching tackle to halt another incursion.
In the final minutes of the half, Leamington had the better possession, with Jewitt sending in a clever chip which nearly set up Ruyssevelt and Nunn, while prop Dan Barber pressured the Earlsdon defence with some sparkling runs.
In contrast to a reasonably evenly balanced first half, the second period was one the Leamington support will cherish.
The visitors were immediately on their game and some inspirational tactical kicks from Nunn and Jim Robertson opened up gaps in the home defence for Bruce and skipper Craig Smith to capitalise on.
One probing kick into the Earlsdon half was tentatively gathered by a defender, who was quickly ushered into touch by Smith, racing up in support.
The resulting lineout was gathered by Smith and the Leamington pack drove him forward. When the ball was made available, Jewitt presented Ruyssevelt, racing in from the blindside, with a beautifully weighted pass, allowing the winger to crash over for a superbly crafted score.
Jewitt then sent over a perfect kick to draw his side level.
The hosts’ ball was now under severe pressure in the scrum and Smith was taking every opportunity to run it from the base of the set piece. In fact it was a run from Smith, following good work from the pack, that set up Leamington’s second score, opening up huge gaps in the home defence. When Northover took possession he was quick enough to spot the movement of Ruyssevelt, allowing the winger to sprint in for his second try of the afternoon.
This score certainly unsettled the home side and their frustrations were clearly evident.
Leamington managed to keep a hold on the game and although they came under intense pressure in the final five minutes, their defence and their nerve held for a worthy win.