LUTTERWORTH 1ST XV 18 STAFFORD 1ST XV 15
STAFFORD 1st XV’s Twickenham dream is over after the Castlefields outfit suffered last gasp heartache in Saturday’s thrilling Midland Intermediate Cup semi-final.
Visting Stafford played a full part in a rip-roaring cup clash and appeared to have won it after grabbing their second try of the game, with just five minutes remaining.
As the tie moved into the final minute, Lutterworth threw everything at Stafford and forced a line-out, deep in Stafford’s red zone.
The Lutterworth scrum half attacked down the blind side and fed his winger who squeezed in at the corner, under despairing Stafford tacklers, to snatch the winning try in the final act of the game.
“It was a cruel and undeserved way to lose any game, particularly a semi-final,” said Stafford’s director of coaching, Andy Lewis.
“Every man in the Stafford squad rose to the occasion and produced a performance that they should be proud of. Both teams played their part in a superb game of rugby.” In the early stages, both teams contested every ball for all they were worth and Stafford’s tackling when Lutterworth had the ball was tenacious and outstanding. Stafford full-back Matt Walklate saved at least three Lutterworth tries with lastditch tackles when left one-on-one with the opposition.
Stafford’s scrum was more than equal to the host’s and line-out jumpers Oli Greatholder and Tom Williams not only secured their own ball but also challenged and sometimes won the opposition’s ball.
With Stafford playing as well as they have all season and their support play top drawer, the visitors took the lead after 30 minutes when Jason Trevis converted a penalty for a Lutterworth infringement. The hosts responded a few minutes later with a penalty of their own as Stafford were penalised for a similar error.
Stafford’s forwards were contesting every breakdown with Greatholder, Carl Williams and Matt Rowley to the fore. Young Trevis was having a fine game at fly-half and his excellent line-kicking put Stafford in the right areas of the pitch from which to launch their dangerous backs, but it was Lutterworth who led 6-3 at the break.
After Stafford threatened through Tom Williams, Lutterworth countered from under their own posts and the home winger ran the full length of the field to score a converted try.
Stafford hit back and having forced Lutterworth to drop out from their own 22, Tom Williams gathered the ball and fed Rich Whatling who drove at the heart of the Lutterworth defence.
The ball was re-cycled the width of the pitch before Matt Walklate gave brother Rich a superb off-loaded pass and he crashed through a stretched Lutterworth defence to score a try, superbly converted by Trevis.
After Lutterworth went close, Stafford’s Mark Broomhall struck a long tactical kick to force the home side to concede a line-out deep in their own territory.
The visitors won the line-out, went through three phases of play before Greatholder saw a gap at a ruck and charged straight through a tiring Lutterworth defence to score a try and achieve a 15-13 lead with five minutes to go.
It was all or nothing for Lutterworth and to their credit they edged home in the dying seconds of the tie to face national holders Stoke in the final.