Zhandire impresses as Lincoln 2nd XV continue their run

– Thomas Belli reports contributed to this report

Lincoln 2nd XV carried on their impressive winning streak against a depleted Staffordshire side with a 39-12 victory.

Lincoln 2nd XV continuted their winning streak against Straffordshire. Photo: Thomas Belli

As the game kicked off, Lincoln were graced with slightly breezy conditions unlike that which plagued North Hykeham during the warm up and, as the game progressed, the weather improved further.

Keen not to utilise the confidence from last week’s result, Lincoln started emphatically.

After earning a scrum in the opposition’s 22, the forwards provided a strong platform for the pacey Lincoln backs to expose a few early gaps. As a result, Adam Elwood managed to brush past the defence, passing to Josh Casbon to bundle his way over, giving his side the breakthrough within the first five minutes.

Despite arriving with only 14 players, Staffordshire were boosted with the support of three Lincoln players: Joshua Lawrence, Rayray Ndhlovu and Ryan Hesp, all of whom added a significant boost against familiar faces.

The impact was felt immediately for the visiting side, who were angered by conceding the first points. They returned, exploiting the strengths of their big ball carriers. Staffordshire’s number eight and stand-out player was the one to unlock the 2nd XV’s defence, after a brutal run through the middle, allowing his teammate to simply dot down from a metre out for a converted try.

Unlike the previous week, Lincoln appeared to be sucked further into a rucking game as opposed to their preferred style of expansive rugby; however, strong carrying from the likes of Guy Wright, Danny Chowns and Cameron Dowie powered the home side forward on many occasions.

In fact, it was second row Dowie who posted the next score, physically matching the opposition with the assistance of fellow forward Joe Pickering, to hand the lead back to Lincoln at 12-7.

Linking play for the Staffordshire outfit stemmed from the impressive work between eight and nine; frequently interchanging to setup phases for the visitors, who nearly capitalised on a well-earned penalty which narrowly grazed the posts.

Respectively, it was half-back pairing Liam Milroy and Johno Milnes who ran the show for Lincoln, pushing the side into useful positions around the park.

Milnes also impressed strongly with his ball-carrying efforts. On one instance, he took a smart inside ball at speed from the scrum half, using his strength to force his way over the whitewash. Adding the conversion himself, and a subsequent penalty kick, Lincoln ended the half 22-7 in front.

Immediately after half-time, there was a noticeable difference, using the forward platform to recycle quick ball the Lincoln backs were given much more freedom to exploit the Staffordshire defence. Within minutes, this paid off through wing Adam Elwood, sprinting between a gap and scoring in the corner.

Aiming to continue the scoring, the 2nd XV pressed further, making inroads across the pitch using the lineout and scrum to great effect. This was apparent for the next try, applying their piston moves for Liam Milroy to fire out a pass to oncoming Josh Casbon, crashing over the line for a converted try.

With another try coming from debutant Sam Tilaks, and multiple line breaks from replacement Kuda Zhandire, Staffordshire could have been forgiven for letting their heads drop; however the visitors continued to throw themselves at Lincoln.

As the pressure mounted, confidence filled the Staffordshire side, forcing strong tackles to deny a consolation try. But, within the last play of the game, flanker Joe Pickering received a yellow card for persistent penalties, opening up space between the defensive ranks.

From the resulting penalty, their number eight charged at the line and, despite the brave attempts from Michael Quinn to hold it up, the referee allowed the try, giving the away side something to cheer about as the game finished 39-12.

The second half performance from the home side was far improved, highlighted greatly by man of the match Kuda Zhandire; useful runs from the centre put his side into try scoring positions and, on more than one occasion, nearly adding himself to the score sheet.

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