24/09/16 Tigers 1st XV 26 - 41 Leicester Lions

Crouching Tiger, rampant Lion

A third home game of the season for Tigers saw Leicester Lions make the trip up the M1 to a blustery Dore Moor. The visitors were seeking their third successive win of the 2016-17 campaign, while Tigers were looking to bounce back from a heavy away defeat at the hands of early league leaders Stourbridge. Frank Wragg returned to the pack at the expense of Nick Pearson while in the backs Ryan Holmes started at scrum-half with Liam Wallace moving to the more familiar duties at 13.
The home side kicked off into the breeze and the early exchanges suggested supporters were in for an afternoon of running rugby with both sides intent on moving the ball. It was Tigers who could claim the best of the early exchanges with a penalty kick to the corner offering a chance for the opening score, but a missed lineout allowed the Lions to clear their lines. The home side were soon back on the attack again and neat hands down the line released Jamie Broadly into space on the right wing, the attempted offload was knocked on by Lions and the ensuing play saw Aidan Leeming held up just short. However, Mr Bennett adjudged the earlier infringement to be deliberate and without hesitation dispatched the Lions winger for a 10 minute rest but Tigers let the visitors off the hook again with another missed lineout 5 metres out. The monster Lions pack were beginning to ease themselves into the game and their hard running lines were beginning to punch holes in the home defence and grant the visitors momentum. Despite the early Tigers pressure it was first blood to the visitors when a weaving run by the impressive Lions hooker led to number 8 Danny Hartwell coasting in beneath the sticks unchallenged. The extras were a formality to make the score 0-7. More points were to follow when a kick through was not dealt with by the Tigers back three and an infringement at the ensuing ruck allowed Jonathan Boden to kick the points and stretch the gap to ten.The crowd demanded a response and from the kick off Tigers won the ball and made good yards into the 22 which eventually led to a penalty just to the right of the sticks. What seemed like a routine kick for Angus Bowyer struck the right upright and rebounded, but it was the Tigers back-rower Frank Tufail-Smith who was more alert and after regaining possession the ball was fed wide through Tom Outram and Peter Swatkins to release Jamie Broadley who touched down in the corner. The difficult conversion was missed but Tigers were right back in it and five minutes later the home crowd had more to cheer when swift hands down the line from the visitors looked like a promising move, but the attackers failed to spot Henri Packard stalking the three-quarter line and an interception on the final pass saw Packard race half the length to score beneath the sticks. The extras pushed Tigers ahead for the first time in the match 12-10, but the slender lead was short lived as straight from the kick-off the home side failed to clear their lines and a ruck infringement gifted the Lions an easy three points. Further misery followed as poor tackling in mid-field allowed man of the match Drew Rudkin to break several tackles and feed Marco Dallavalle who touched down under the sticks. The conversion ensured the oranges tasted that bit sweeter in the away dressing room as Mr Bennett blew for half time (Tigers 12-20 Lions).
With the wind at their backs the men from Dore Moor must have been optimistic, but any hopes of a comeback were short lived as the Lions scored two tries in quick succession at the start of the half. Firstly, a splinter from a driving maul saw Harry Mahone cross out wide and three minutes later a turnover in midfield saw a breakaway which although hauled down just short, Lewis Samuel was on hand to finish and extend the Lions lead with both tries converted to 12-34. The home side had it all to do to salvage anything from the game. Tigers needed a lift, enter Charlie Cone, the man mountain from Bretton who was making his 100th 1st team appearance for the club. However, the fresh legs did little to stop the rampant Lions pack as they continued to dominate set piece and dictate the flow of the game. The task got a whole lot tougher when an off the ball incident saw Tigers reduced to fourteen men. A flash of red from Mr Bennett saw Frank Wragg granted an early bath. From the ensuing penalty, a well marshalled drive led to the ball being moved wide to centre Jamel Hamilton who slipped a tackle to touch down for the Lions fifth, duely converted 12-41. The away fans must have been confident the mauling was complete, but Tigers had other ideas with the home side finishing strongly in the last ten minutes. With the shackles off and nothing to lose the home side cut loose and from their own 22 illusive footwork from Jonathan Buchanan saw him break the line and feed Henri Packard who raced half the length for his second of the day, converted by Outram. Tigers weren’t done yet and 3 minutes later Pete Swatkins gathered a kick and sliced the defensive line, from the ensuing ruck the ball found Broadley who completed his brace wide in the left corner. Tigers captain Outram slotted the conversion from a difficult angle, but it was too little too late as Mr Bennett called time and the Lions took a well-deserved five points.

Another harsh lesson in National 2 rugby leaves Tigers 11th in the league with 6 points, but they must take credit for committing to the full 80 minutes and earning themselves a four try bonus point. They will be looking to add to their tally next week when they visit bottom placed Harrogate where surely nothing but a win will do.

Scorers:     Tries: Broadley (2), Packard (2)
Conversions: Bowyer (1), Outram (2)

Team: Simmons, Bennett, Wright(Thornton(Cone)), Orton, Leeming(Pearson), Wragg, Tufail Smith, Walker, Holmes,
Bowyer(Buchanan), Packard, Outram (C), Wallace(Graham), Broadley, Swatkins

Replacements: Thornton,Cone, Pearson, Buchanan, Graham

Man of the match  - Steve Walker

Match Report: Andy Barnes

17/09/16 Tigers 1st XV 21 - 49 Stourbridge

Tigers made the trip to high flying, and high spending Stourbridge for what was clearly going to be a testing game. With Al Symcox and Ben Sullivan out for several weeks and Ryan Holmes and Frank Wragg out with short term injuries, it was a changed side from last week.
Tigers set off with power and determination and within 4 minutes had got their just rewards for some good attacking play.  Angus Bowyer kicked a penalty after a holding offence and Tigers were on the board, Stourbridge 0 – 3 Tigers. Just the sort of start they needed. From a lineout following the restart Tigers, with Liam Wallace at scrum-half, sent the ball out along the backline and into the hands of the ever reliable Peter Swatkins. He had Henri Packard in support and fed him the ball to go over in the corner for a try. From a difficult position this was converted by Angus Bowyer to make the score Stourbridge 0 – 10 Tigers after just 6 minutes of play. Stourbridge now began to wake up and their large pack began to try and impose themselves on the game. At the same time their backs began to show pace and the ability to wrong-foot players as they launched a number of attacks on the Tigers line. Tigers defended as only they can but, after 14 minutes a penalty offence by Steve Walker resulted in a successful kick for Luke White and a yellow card for the Tigers player. Stourbridge 3 – 10 Tigers. The home side continued to pressure but Tigers attacked and fought for everything. They were awarded a penalty and Angus Bowyer decided to take the points to make the score 3 - 13 while Tigers were playing with 14 men. The home fans were stunned but had confidence that their team would weather the storm. Stourbridge came back with wave after wave of attacks and, after a clearance by Peter Swatkins, moved the ball out through their back line for the left wing Joseph Bridger, to go over for an unconverted try to make it 8 – 13. After another period of Stourbridge pressure Steve Walker took a good pass from Angus Bowyer and set off down the pitch only to be brought down well inside the Stourbridge half and then penalised for not releasing! From the clearance and lineout Stourbridge attacked and after a lineout in the Tigers 22 they set up a rolling maul from which their No. 8, Ciaran Moore, went over. Luke White converted so, after 29 minutes the score was Stourbridge 15 – 13 Tigers. From the restart Stourbridge attacked and a great run by their 13, Heatley, saw him dance through the Tigers back line to score another converted try and make the score 22 - 13. Tigers were still up for the fight and just a couple of minutes later a good scrum resulted in a penalty that Angus Bowyer kicked to make it 22 - 16 with half time approaching.  Stourbridge, however, were not easing up and on 40 minutes from a lineout on the Tigers 5 metre Ciaran Moore went over again for a converted try to make it Stourbridge 29 – 16 Tigers at half-time.
From the start of the second half Tigers applied pressure but they were having to chase the game. They managed to get themselves a penalty from another good scrum and opted to go for the corner rather than the three points. Tigers pressured and the Stourbridge tight head saw yellow as the home side were reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes. Although they pressed Tigers could not break down the solid defence and eventually the ball was cleared up field. Stourbridge now launched their own counter attack with smooth handling resulting in the full-back, Rod Petty, crossing the line for another converted try. 36 - 16 with 28 minutes still to go. Tigers forwards Biff Pearson, Will Bennett and Charlie Wright were replaced by Louis Townsend, Ross Thornton and Junior Gelsthorpe respectively. Stourbridge were keen to take the points whenever they could and got two quick penalties which they kicked to give them a commanding 42 - 16 lead. Tigers then replaced backs Henri Packard and Dan Kelly with Alex Graham and Jack Partington respectively. Tigers were still looking to attack whenever possible and a good break by Angus Bowyer resulted in a penalty inside the oppositions 22. Again Tigers attacked but Stourbridge defended well. Louis Townsend was putting in some solid tackles but the pressure was being soaked up. It was now Tigers turn to take some pressure and, with 6 minutes left, a smart grubber kick left the three-quarters flat footed as their outside centre picked up the ball and scored a converted try to make it 49 – 16. Throwing caution to the wind in a final flourish Tigers attacked from their own goal line. This resulted in a penalty followed by a lineout on the Stourbridge 22.  Tigers won the ball and a quick feed to Peter Swatkins who ran around 3 men to release Alex Graham who went over in the corner for the final unconverted try. The whistle went and the score was Stourbridge 49 – 21 Tigers.

Although some might question it there was clearly a difference in class. Ruthless finishing and fewer mistakes, coupled with some big player in the scrum, told in the end. The Tigers players will have felt that they gave it their best shot and played for the full 80 minutes. There will be easier games but we need to tighten up a little and not give the opposition as many chances. A tough lesson but one we will learn from.
Well played to all the players and let’s hope we can shake up Leicester Lions in the battle of the big cats next Saturday.  

Scorers:     Tries: Graham (1), Packard (1)
Conversions: Bowyer (1)
Penalties:  Bowyer (3)

Team: Simmons, Bennett(Thornton), Wright(Gelsthorpe), Orton, Leeming, Pearson (Townsend), Tufail Smith, Walker, Wallace, Bowyer, Packard(Graham), Outram (C), Kelly(Partington), Broadley, Swatkins

Replacements: Thornton, Gelsthorpe, Townsend, Graham, Partington

10/09/16 Tigers 1st XV 40 - 10 Scunthorpe

From the first scrum it looked like it was going to be one of those days. A big, heavy Scunthorpe scrum showed their intentions from the start and for the first ten minutes Tigers were under considerable pressure. Four penalties given away in the first 6 minutes did not help and eventually one of them was in easy kicking range. Fortunately, the Scunthorpe kicker was off form and the ball went wide but it was time for Tigers to come into the game. But another penalty gave their kicker an easier chance and the visitors went ahead to make it Tigers 0 -3  Scunthorpe. At last Tigers went on to the offensive and having charged down a 22 drop out they kept Scunthorpe on the back foot. After an attempted clearance the ball ended up with Peter Swatkins who, although brought down, managed to feed the ball out to Jamie Broadley who mounted a powerful attack finally feeding the ball out to the hard running Liam Wallace who went over in the corner for a try.  Against the wind Angus Bowyer put over a great kick to make the score Tigers 7 - 3 Scunthorpe. Tigers were beginning to get parity in the scrums and good lineout work by Frank Wragg and Aidan Leeming was starting to disrupt the Scunthorpe play. The Tiger backs were running the ball but some careless mistakes were still in evidence – the forward pass, knock-on, losing the ball in the tackle. The result was another penalty to Scunthorpe which was again missed. With 38 minutes gone Tigers attacked again and a good three-quarters move was defended by the visitors who tried to run the ball out. Tigers tackled well and Francis Tufail Smith (Frank from now on!) turned the ball over and it was passed out to Peter Swatkins who went over for a try. The kick went just wide and at half-time the score was Tigers 12 – 3 Scunthorpe.
Tigers forwards had worked hard with Ben Sullivan, Frank T- S, Stevie Walker, Aidan Leeming and Frank Wragg putting themselves around to disrupt Scunthorpe. At the same time the front-row appeared to have weathered the storm and were holding their own. The three-quarters were defending well and showed some good attacking flair which augured well for the second half.
Scunthorpe came out with all guns blazing at the start of the second half and again put the Tigers pack under pressure. Ryan Holmes was taking the ball going backwards which, in turn was putting Tom Outram and the rest of the backs on the back foot. Eventually the pressure paid off and Scunthorpe went through for a try under the posts which was converted to tighten the game up at Tigers 12 – 10 Scunthorpe. Game on! Tigers now found themselves under pressure and from a scrum inside their own 22 they found themselves pushed off the ball and Scunthorpe attacked down the narrow side. The Scunthorpe 10 (Foster) had a frustrating afternoon and it was about to get worse. As he tried to get the ball to the winger it was intercepted by one of the players you just knew would capitalise on it. As Henri Packard set off the result was somewhat inevitable. The try was converted and it was now 19 - 10 to Tigers. Following the introduction of new players – Charlie Cone for Charlie Wright, Dan Kelly for Liam Wallace, Ross Thornton for Will Bennett and Alex Graham for Henri Packard, Lee Orton for Aidan Leeming - Tigers were again under pressure on their own line. They defended well and then mounted a counter attack which saw them move down the pitch with Frank T-F going over for a converted try. 26 -10 to Tigers and their fitness and determination was beginning to take its toll on a Scunthorpe side that had given its best. The visitors’ forwards kept the pressure on but the backs were looking disheartened and Tigers had the players to exploit it. Alex Graham led attacked down the left only to be stopped short of the line. The ball was recycled and moved through the hands to the right hand side where Alex Graham appeared yet again and wet over for a try. Another conversion and it was 33 - 10.
Things got worse for Scunthorpe when frustration got the better of their fly-half who spear tackled Ross Thornton and was probably lucky to only get a yellow.  With 8 minutes left Tigers were on the attack and eventually, on 80 minutes Peter Swatkins ran in the final converted try to make it 40 - 10.
Tigers played well but know that they cannot make errors as they are likely to be punished. The pack also got a taste of what to expect but coped well, especially in the lineouts. The backs defended well and Jamie Broadley made some penetrating runs that helped to set up powerful attacks. The 5 point bonus win was hard earned and deserved, hopefully we can upset Stourbridge next week.

Man of the match was Frank Tufail Smith.

Scorers:     Tries: Graham (1), Packard (1), Swatkins (2), Tufail Smith (1), Wallace (1)
Conversions: Bowyer (5)

Team: Simmons, Bennett(Thornton), Wright(Cone), Wragg, Leeming(Orton), Tufail Smith, Sullivan, Walker, Holmes, Bowyer, Packard(Graham), Outram (C), Wallace(Kelly), Broadley, Swatkins

Replacements: Thornton, Cone, Orton, Kelly, Graham

03/09/16 Tigers 1st XV 10 - 22 Luctonians

The new season finally got underway at a very wet Dore Moor on Saturday with Luctonians having made the 4hr trip up to Tigers to be greeted by weather they had not experienced for 3 years – the last time they visited Tigers!
Luctonians kicked off with the wind and rain on their backs. From the start it was clear that it was going to be a tight game and for the first 15 minutes it was mostly played in the centre of the pitch with Luctonians making the occasional foray into Tigers half. After 15 minutes Luctonians were awarded a penalty just outside the Tigers 22 and their scrum half, Louis Silver, slotted the kick over to give the visitors a 0 - 3 lead. The set piece looked solid for Tigers but Luctonians clearly had a plan which was to batter away at the centre then try to run it wide. Tigers withstood the pressure and eventually got a penalty within kicking range. Angus Bowyer stepped up but, against the elements, the kick drifted just wide. Luctonians, from another penalty in the middle of the pitch kicked it into touch just outside the Tigers 22. From the lineout they set up a driving maul which Tigers failed to stop and the Luctonians hooker, Jordan Street went over in the corner for a try which was converted to give the visitors a 0 - 10 lead. Tigers were now being frustrated by the speed of the Luctonians back-row who seemed to be setting off from starting blocks and pressuring the three-quarters. Or maybe they were just playing the referee better than Tigers? Good work by the forwards with runs by Steve Walker, Ben Sullivan and Biff Pearson together with good lineout work by Frank Wragg were keeping Tigers in touch. Ed Simmons, Will Bennett and Charlie Wright were doing a sterling job in the front-row but Tigers were having difficulty breaking down a well organised defence. From another long kick by Luctonians the erstwhile Peter Swatkins made a typical weaving run to cut through the Luctonians backs and, with Henri Packard outside him, drew the fullback and passed the ball out for Henri Packard to score in the corner. Unfortunately, the last part was only in the mind of those watching as the pass went behind Henri and the chance went begging. Half-time came with the score Tigers 0 – 10 Luctonians.
The second half followed a similar pattern until the 51st minute when, from a kick ahead, Jamie Broadley outstripped the Luctonians defence and touched the ball down in the corner.  A great kick by Angus Bowyer made the score 7 - 10 and it was beginning to look like Tigers could mount a comeback. The scrums were still tight but Tigers were contesting well and taking some Luctonians lineout ball. Tony Gelsthorpe, Ross Thornton and Al Symcox came on and on the hour a penalty by Angus Bowyer levelled the scores at 10 - 10. Game on. Luctonians responded with a wave of attacks which Tigers defended. After a lengthy period of defending their own line Tigers finally allowed the Luctonians flanker, Mathew Hackley, to squeeze over the line and touch down just to the left of the posts. At first the referee signalled that the ball had been held up but, after consulting his linesmen, he awarded the try. It was converted to make the score 10 – 17 with twelve minutes left to play. Tigers almost immediately got a penalty about 35m out and decided to take the points. Unfortunately, it drifted off to the left of the post and it went down as another chance missed. Tigers pressured looking for the equaliser but were often driven back by the Luctonians defence. Finally, after a break by Liam Wallace down the touchline he nudged the ball through for Henri to win the footrace to touch the ball down. The crowd went wild until they realised that it had been disallowed for Henri being in front of the kicker. A close decision but it was called and Tigers were still behind. They threw everything at Luctonians but could not make any real headway. From a rare Luctonians attack Tigers found themselves back on their own line defending with just a minute to go. They showed their self-belief by attempting to attack and get the draw. This backfired and the visitors’ scrum-half went over for an unconverted try sealing the win and denying Tigers a losing bonus point. Final score Tigers 10 - 22 Luctonians.
The score flattered the visitors but they were experienced and had a plan which they worked to. Tigers naivety at this level showed up and I am sure they will take the lessons from it and step up to the mark next week against Scunthorpe. The season is long and the learning curve is steep but we are quick learners.

Man of the match was Ben Sullivan.

Scorers:     Tries: Broadley (1)
Conversions: Bowyer (1)
Penalties:   Bowyer (1)

Team: Simmons, Bennett(Thornton), Wright(Gelsthorpe), Wragg, Leeming(Symcox), Pearson, Sullivan, Walker, Holmes, Bowyer, Packard, Outram (C), Wallace, Broadley, Swatkins

Replacements: Thornton, Gelsthorpe, Symcox, Kelly, Graham

27/08/16 Tigers 1st XV Squad 28 - 27 Macclesfield (Pre-Season)

Macclesfield Huddle

Macclesfield Huddle

In the final warm up game before the league opener against Luctonians, Tigers travelled to newly promoted National 1 side Macclesfield. Them having won the N2N last year it would be a good measure of what to expect.
Tigers pressured from the start but, after 10 minutes, good support work by Macclesfield turned the ball over and with speed and good handling the scrum half touched down near the posts. The conversion went over and it was 7 – 0 much against the run of play. Tigers were undaunted by this set back and the forwards began to pile on the pressure. They were looking good going forward but Macclesfield again made a break but with a 2-man overlap passed the ball forward and it came to nothing. From within the Tigers 22 a strong run by Steve Walker moved the ball up field only for Macclesfield to attack again. The National 1 side were beginning to apply some pressure in the scrums but Tigers were not giving way and their defence was holding strong. Another home side break saw the lively scrum half go over in the corner making the score 12 – 0. It was now Tigers turn to attack and a great break by Henri Packard ended with a kick ahead over the Macclesfield try line only for the home side to touch it down. From the resulting scrum Tigers piled on the pressure with phase after phase of attacks until Ben Sullivan made a powerful run from 15 metres out and, taking 4 opposition players with him, went over for a try.  Angus Bowyer converted to make it 12 -7 with Tigers looking good. More pressure and another kick ahead by Henri sees him taken out as he chases the kick. Liam Wallace is also chasing and touches the ball down in the corner. Another great kick by Angus sees Tigers take the lead 12 -14 at half time.
Macclesfield started the second half as if they have had a rocket shoved up them … and they probably had! They attacked the Tigers line and after 7 phases and 5 attempts they finally crossed to nudge ahead 17 – 14. Tigers were now under sustained pressure and the defensive qualities were getting thoroughly tested. The home side found themselves a man down after a yellow card for continuously coming through the line out but still maintained the pressure. Liam Wallace finally kicked long to take the pressure off and Tigers made a change with Aidan Leeming coming off and Al Simcox coming on.  Macclesfield continued to pressure and eventually got over in the corner for another unconverted try to give them a 22 -14 lead and, one suspects, a belief that their strength and fitness would tell in the last quarter. Tainne Finn was replaced by Jack Parkinson with Liam moving to the wing and Jack to the centre. Louis Townend came on in the back row and Junior Gelsthorpe also made an appearance.  Louis immediately made a difference with a strong carry which resulted in a Ryan Holmes kick ahead for Peter Swatkins to chase and touch down. Another great kick by Angus Bowyer saw the score go to 22 -21 for the home side. Ben Sullivan was replaced by Lee Monks and the prospect of losing stung the home side into action. Tigers defended and an “up and under” by Al Simcox saw him catch the ball and make a bullish run. Macclesfield attacked down the middle and with an overlap scored again. Another easy kick was missed and the score was 27 -21 with only a few minutes left. Quick turn over ball by Tigers saw Henry break out from his own 22 and go outside his opposing winger. With the defence coming across he was adjudged to have put a foot in touch and the attack came to nothing. With the last minute approaching the fighting spirit of the Tigers again saw them attack and Al Simcox put a perfectly weighted cross field kick from the outside of his boot and into the path of Peter Swatkins who touched down. Another great conversion and the whistle went with the final score Macclesfield 27 – 28 Tigers.

Good preparation for next week and the Tigers huddle at the end of the game shows the Tigers family has really got it together. All 21 of the squad were involved and showed a great team spirit. There were no individual heroes just a team of happy players who knew they had done a good job.

Thanks to Caroline Wragg and Paul Walker for the information. Photograph courtesy of Andy Hill