– Thomas Belli contributed to this report.

In a top of the table clash, Lincoln 2nd XV fell to University College of Birmingham [UCB] XV in a tight 5-10 defeat.

A week without a game had left Lincoln hungry to continue their winning streak and, with both Lincoln rugby teams playing at the same venue, the pressure was on to perform.

It was a tentative start as both Lincoln and UCB tried to find a foothold in the game.

Missing a standout kicker didn’t help the seconds, as the first point scoring opportunity came through the boot. Scrum half, Liam Milroy took on the duties in a swirling wind, that would prove difficult for a seasoned player. As predicted, Lincoln were unable to capitalize, keeping the score at 0-0.

Despite their best efforts, UCB remained hemmed in their half, as Lincoln seemed to be brimming with confidence.

An intelligent turn over at the ruck was fed through to the centres, releasing full back, James Cowell. His mazy run cut through the defence, just leaving him to touch down. Agonisingly, he spilled the ball over the line, much to the delight of the visiting team.

The remainder of the first half was fairly disjointed, with the blustery conditions affecting the handling. Injuries to both Lincoln and UCB making it difficult for anyone to assert any dominance.

Shining lights for the home side were centres, Matt Rogerson and Alex Tilbury, who tackled ferociously and showed some excellent handling skills to keep Lincoln gaining ground.

UCB slowly managed to find their feet and pressured the opponent’s defence. On one occasion, they were denied a try by Lincoln’s aggressive tackling and Josh Casbon’s sharp intervention.

However, it was ill-discipline that cost the home side. On the stroke of half time, UCB nailed a penalty kick, giving the away side a slim 3-0 advantage heading into the second half.

Lincoln’s optimism remained as they burst out of the traps. Within minutes, a hole in UCB’s defence allowed Lincoln captain, Josh Casbon, to shoot through, showing his pace. With little space left, he showed the awareness to pop off to fellow flanker, Rob Anthony, for him to force his way over the line, delivering Lincoln a slender two point lead.

A short while later, a quickly taken penalty, metres from the line, left UCB numbers free to crash over. A conversion took the score to 10-5, but neither side was safe with a lead so small.

Exploiting their ball carriers, UCB hammered into Lincoln’s defence in the hope of gaining metres, but for every crash ball, Lincoln remained resilient. Fly half, Tom Hindle, one of the smaller players on the pitch, proved more than a match, putting in an impressive tackling display.

As the game entered the final quarter UCB were desperate to continue their unbeaten start to the season, even going for a speculative drop goal attempt just to push them out of reach.

The home side were eager for the win and strung some good moves together. A series of penalties giving Lincoln the optimism to press right till the end. But the task was just too much, as a knock on signalled the end to a fierce league encounter.

For Lincoln, this was highlighted before the game as being the toughest match of the season but, with the narrow margin of defeat, there was room for optimism.

There were strong displays throughout the squad but it was prop, Danny Chowns, who stole the show, eating up territory and finding inroads for Lincoln until the final whistle.

With a more clinical performance at the return fixture, it’ll be a tasty decider for two sides with league-winning potential.