Leamington Royals’ tough start to the season continued with a defeat at reigning champions Northampton.
The visitors’ cause was not helped by a number of contentious refereeing decisions, which twice led to Royals being short-handed on a unseasonably warm afternoon.
The first 10 minutes were a war of attrition with neither side giving an inch.
The deadlock was eventually broken following a trademark barnstorming run by Liam Wellings who smashed through his marker after a ruck and ran in from half-way.
The extras were added by Tom Hyam.
However, put under pressure by the home side, the men from Leamington found their discipline being tested and unfortunately came up short.
They conceded two needless penalties which gave Demons a chance to sustain repeated pressure on the Royals try line and eventually the hosts’ second-row crashed over for a converted try.
The referee was beginning to lose patience with both sides, awarding repeated penalties in and around the ruck area for infringements and backchat.
Leamington benefited when, after a quick play the ball by Ash Mir, Wellings went over for his second try of the afternoon.
Hyam missed the conversion from wide out.
Almost immediately after the restart, Wellings received an elbow to the face in a tackle and kicked out at the offending player. This resulted in a small melee and a bloodied Wellings being sent to the sin-bin.
Royals defended stoutly but conceded another penalty when prop Reece Jones landed on the Demons hooker’s leg in the tackle, causing him to leave the field with a hamstring injury.
Royals were handed a team warning for being too aggressive after the tackle and Demons made the extra man count on the subsequent set, going over for a converted try on the half-time whistle to take a 12-10 interval lead.
The second half again started with both teams not giving a quarter in defence.
However, poor communication between the Royals backs led to Demons scoring a converted try to take the score out to 19-10.
Another penalty for backchat resulted in a further score for Northampton and another yellow card as full-back Will Cox was sent to the bin.
Royals were orchestrating their own downfall by knocking on early in the tackle count as they tried to force the play and Northampton took advantage to score two more tries.
Finally, back up to a full compliment of players, Royals started to play structured rugby.
And they gained some consolation when Andy Morrison broke the line, supported by Alex Mills-Baker, allowing Wellings to complete his hat-trick.