– Josh Clark contributed with this report.
The University of Lincoln rugby union team suffered their first league defeat of the season at the hands of a strong Staffordshire squad, who came out 12-8 winners.
After being unbeaten in their previous eight league games, this first defeat has slowed Lincoln’s charge for the league title and promotion.
Coming off the back of a highly impressive 17 – 10 victory over Warwick University 3rds, Lincoln looked to kill off one of their biggest title rivals. With the last encounter with Staffordshire ending in a tight draw, all knew the game was going to be a close encounter.
The game began with immense pressure coming from the whole Lincoln team. Fired up, Lincoln retained possession and went on the offensive, winning an early penalty within minutes of kick off. Nick Bates capitalised and put Lincoln 3–0 up. For the first twenty minutes Lincoln battered the blue wall of Staffordshire’s defense but couldn’t take advantage, as it stayed strong.
Everything was going Lincoln’s way as the scrums were solid and they even stole opposition ball at lineouts on more than one occasion. But the only thing escaping Lincoln was a try.
With wave after wave of Lincoln assault, pressure began to build, with Staffordshire struggling to leave their own half. A rare attack from Staffordshire was halted as winger Mike Stewart intercepted the ball and, with the length of the pitch to run, was tackled within metres of the opposition try line.
As half time came closer, somehow the score remained at 3–0. Lincoln players were left bemused at how all their pressure and possession had not resulted in more points.
With five minutes before the half time whistle Lincoln suffered a heavy blow as the Staffordshire full back broke the defensive back line to race through for the first try of the game. The resulting conversion was successful and Staffordshire took a 7–3 lead into the break.
After putting in what seemed like an exhausting shift in the first half, Lincoln regrouped and retook to the field. It didn’t take long for Lincoln to finally break their try scoring duck as captain Howard Bishop cut a line through the Staffordshire backs to dive over for an all important score.
With the score close at 8–7 to Lincoln, the game exploded into life with both teams pushing hard for the win. The close nature of the score and what was at stake led to a highly physical half, with both teams putting in some thunderous tackles.
Fatigue and injuries started to take their toll on the Lincoln side as they struggled to hold on to the slimmest of leads. With the pitch surface tearing up, the game became scrappy as both teams pushed for the vital points which would snatch victory. After its reliance in the first half, the Lincoln scrum folded as the Staffordshire pack proved too strong and piled over the line for a try.
With one last push from Lincoln ending up in a turnover, time was up as Staffordshire scraped what could prove to be a pivotal victory.
Lincoln still sit top of the league table but they will hope to return to winning ways against the University of Birmingham 3rds next week in what is likely to be a must win fixture.Tweet