Playing under the floodlights at Webb Ellis Road on Friday night, Leamington ultimately fell to the pace of the hosts’ back line in an absorbing cup tie.
As early as the fourth minute, a kick into the Rugby half was latched on to by the hosts’ right-winger, who dummied his pass inside, then set off down the flank to score in the corner.
Buoyed by this, Rugby remained on the front foot and increased their lead with a converted score in the ninth minute.
The speed of Rugby again caught out the Spa side, with a further try and a penalty meaning that with 22 minutes on the clock Leamington were already 20 points adrift.
The gloom was soon lifted as the visitors got to grips with the tempo of the game. They began a series of attacks in the home red zone, which ultimately resulted in a push-over score, Matt Patching getting the all-important last touch on the ball.
Jim Robertson’s return to the side was christened with one of his trademark effortless conversions. He soon followed this up with a penalty and within a flash, Spa were starting to give the hosts plenty to think about.
Gooch was once again instrumental in getting the Leamington attack moving and as the ball was moved out to Jamie Harrison, his pace and trickery resulted in the hosts conceding another penalty, gratefully accepted by the boot of Robertson to bring his side within seven points of the Lions at the break.
The interval did nothing to diminish the spirit of the Leamington squad as they began with a superb run by Tom Daplyn, who almost unlocked the home side defence singlehandedly.
Then Harrison had the crowd on their toes with a blistering run which began in his own half and ended just short of the hosts’ line.
Leamington had to contend with a penalty from Rugby, but at the restart they had the home supporters’ nerves jangling with one of their best passages of play.
Claiming possession from the kick-off deep in Rugby’s half, the Leamington pack produced a seemingly unstoppable rolling maul which was thwarted by some last-ditch intervention from a worried home defence.
The open encounter brought further reward for the home side in the form of two more tries as they ran out worthy winners.