The initial barrage went the Lions way as they pushed West off their own ball at scrum time but the dampness in the air over ‘no mans land’ was to have an effect on handling throughout the battle and meant that there was no break through until the 12 minute.
‘Tommy’ Ryan Painter broke the stalemate when he chipped the ball over the Lions barbed wire defence, regathered and dived over the try line. Zac Southern converted.
The Lions replied immediately from the kick off after a silly infringement allowed them to kick a penalty.(3-7).
The adversaries now settled into a period of stalemate with neither side able to breach the final defensive positions of their foe. Attacks from both sides should have resulted in successes but failure occurred as reserve forces failed to arrive in time.
On 30 minutes the Stags stretched their lead when Craig Gilmour blasted over in the corner. This was after 2nd Row Andy Robson had taken the ball over the try line but was held up. From the resultant 5m scrum, initial thrusts were thwarted before the ball was moved wide, blind, for the visitors own ‘Big Bertha’ to take his toll.
Now the Lions took the opportunity to lay siege to the Stags line and in this period West lost 2 players to yellow cards. Down to 13 the defence was valiant and just when it looked like they would survive until the break Billingham moved the ball around enough for West to run out of defenders. The try was converted.
HT Billingham 10 – 12 West.
As the 2nd half started Billingham failed to make their numerical superiority count as West spent the first 10 minutes camped in the home teams half.
However 15 minutes in the Lions did score a converted try. A poor Stags clearance kick gave them the ball in midfield and they quickly moved it to the wing who went over on the 15m line after some ‘indifferent’ defence.(17-12).
Now, at last, the Stags were stung into action and for the next 20 minutes they picked their game up and ran in 3 unanswered tries.
Firstly some good offensive defence forced Billingham into a hasty clearance kick. It was charged down, Adam Larkin gathered and Robson was set free to score in the corner.(17-17).
Next West turned a ball over in their own half and Painter set off in counter attack. Larkin was released and finished off wide-out.(17-22).
Painter turned from provider to scorer for the next score with a brilliant individual effort. He broke from a ruck in the home 22 cut through a gap beat several defenders and escaped tackles to score close to the posts. Southern converted.(17-29).
On 70 minutes Southern took a straightforward penalty chance that had been awarded.(17-32).
So the game was safe? No. Was the Billingham reply. Firstly the visitors fell asleep as a penalty was awarded 5m out from their line and a quick tap saw a home player nip over for a converted try.(24-32).
Again another poor kick allowed a Lions winger to gallop up the touchline evading disappointing efforts at tackles. Billingham’s marksman once again adding the points (a 100% return I believe).
This was the final act of what was a forgettable game for the Stags, play was fitful and mistakes prevalent. A considerable improvement will be required for next weeks fixture at home to league leaders Tynedale.
Highlights – last weeks Bucks front row of Dove, Hamilton & Hadwen played the majority of the match and after early difficulties did very well. Plus a virtuoso display from Painter at scrum half who caused Billingham trouble all match.
Stags – 15.Southern Z. 14.Mallinson 13.Larkin 12.Moss 11.Boatman 10.Wallis 9.Painter 8.Gilchrist 7.Myers 6.Young 5.Robson A 4.Corbett 3. Hadwen 2.Hamilton 1.Forrest
Subs – Dove. Robson M. Mills. Youll. Southern G. Cameron