- Staffordshire overcome elements to beat Leicestershire
- Foul weather mars Midlands derby
Staffordshire overcame atrocious weather conditions and stubborn resistance from Leicestershire to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals of the National Under 20 Shield with a 20-8 win in Pool One at Lichfield’s Cooke Fields ground on Wednesday (December 18).
A gale force wind and driving heavy rain made conditions, both overhead and underfoot, treacherous and ruined the contest as a spectacle but Staffordshire made better use of the conditions and came from being eight points down at one stage to secure a deserved win.
Both sides deserve credit for trying to play rugby in adverse conditions and Leicestershire scored the try of the night after only four minutes when right wing Rhondell Stabana of Leicester Grammar School crossed with his first touch of the ball on his debut from a confident handling move.
Centre Tom Heggs (South Leicester) stretched Leicestershire’s lead with a 16th-minute penalty but Staffordshire defended tenaciously for the rest of the half and pulled back three points after 23 minutes when number eight Jack Fielding of Bournemouth kicked an important penalty into the wind.
One try with the benefit of the wind at their back never looked like being enough for Leicestershire and so it proved.
Staffordshire’s intelligent kicking after the break pegged Leicestershire in their own 22 and left them with little option but to try to run the ball out of defence.
When Leicestershire made errors, Staffordshire pounced with blindside flanker Daniel Poole (Burntwood) driving over from a five metres scrum to level the scores after a Leicestershire pass went astray.
Lock Sam Longstaff (Newcastle) crossed from another five metres scrum midway through the second half, which gave Staffordshire the lead for the first time.
Further Staffordshire pressure was rewarded when Longstaff arrived in support and crossed for his second try late on and Josh Bowyer (Trentham) added the conversion.
Staffordshire complete their pool programme against Cumbria at Longton on January 19 with Leicestershire hosting Durham at Coalville on the same day.