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Aldwinians through to the final

Aldwinians made it through to the final of the cup after defeating Leamington in the semi-final.

After comfortable wins in the quarter-finals for both teams, the stage was set for an epic battle in the glorious conditions at Leamington RUFC.

Both sides looked in great shape and Mooney and his men were taking no chances; a solid squad of players made the journey knowing that on their day, they could beat any side.

Right from the initial kick off you could see the home side wanted to assert their dominance but a kick straight to Alex Hughes signalled what was to come. He linked up well with back and forwards alike before his brother Tom cut through the defensive line to take it directly back into the opposition half.

The first penalty of the match saw Aldwinians secure the line and drive the ball deep into the opposition half, only for a knock-on to halt play. Some would say knock-on, others would say a chance for Connor Prendergast and his lads to size up the opposition early in the game and lay down a marker.

Unfortunately, the Aldwinians scrum was pinged for pushing early but many felt the lack of resistance from the home side was to blame.

However, the home side opted for the kick, Aldwinians backs cutting through the defensive line with ease and Tom Hughes linking nicely with Mitch Dempsey for the opening score just minutes into the game.

The home side opted to try and kick through the defensive line, and once again the Aldwinians’ brick layers were well in force and the brick wall defence was set early in the match.

Leamington showed great character and with home advantage was determined to breach the Aldwinians’ line. A line out on the 22m line saw the home side drive the ball forward and eventually cross the line to level the match.

The kick-off that followed saw Leamington call for the mark to secure the ball in their half, but the following scrum was a chance for the visitors to show them what northern power really was and the resulting line out and play only enforced this further.

Even when Leamington secured their own scrum, they were under so much pressure the scrum half had to kick which Aldwinians full-back Mitch Dempsey just loves and every time he drove the ball deep into the opposition’s line.

Unfortunately, a line out went a stray giving the Leamington flanker a chance to dart down the line and score in the corner, giving the home side the lead for the first time.

A loose ball from the following kick saw the Aldwinians back secure the ball and James Sharples taking a direct route one, into the heart of the opposition. Only a penalty saw them halted, but the pressure was building.

Unfortunately, the kick went slightly wide and the score remained the same. The drop that followed went directly to Matthew Ross who linked up well with his forwards and was not shy about attacking the opposition from just outside their 10m line.

Great running lines from Ruben Holland and the other forwards saw Aldwinians making ground when Alex Hughes played a lovely kick through which his brother Tom gathered and dotted down over the line.

Alex then taking his kicking boots for the extra two, Aldwinians back in the lead.

What followed was a period of Leamington pressure seeing Aldwinians camped on their own 10m line, and the home side throwing everything they had.

However, when a chip through resulted in a Leamington line out, Matthew Ross stole the ball and went on a run himself, Mitch Dempsey in full support.

Once again the Aldwinians team displayed that from 1 to 15 players on the pitch they are all happy to take a run and drive the ball forward. Only a high tackle 5m out saw the score halted.

The Aldwinians’ scrum on the 5m though was a prime attacking opportunity, which the home side defended the best way they could but the referee deemed it to have been brought down.

Once again Connor Prendergast took the advantage and opted for another scrum, this time when the scrum went down short of the line the referee had no choice but to raise his arm and point to the post.

A penalty try, great rewards for an awesome front 8 performance.

The home side was not done yet though and fought straight back with driving runs but the Aldwinians’ defence was a match and only a penalty for high tackle gave the home side any real ground.

Leamington opted to take the extra three points though, showing the toll the Aldwinians’ defence was taking on them.

The three points gave the home side a boost and once again they attacked the Aldwinians’ try line, a penalty kicked deep into the Aldwinians’ half and the resulting lineout just over 5m out saw the Leams pressing once again.

But the forwards fence was strong so they had no choice but to spin the ball out wide.

In the end, after a sustained period of pressure, a penalty to Leamington saw them creep closer to the scoreline.

From the kick the Leamington lads wanted to show their intention and ground they made, unfortunately, they chose to kick for territory and Mitch Dempsey once again said thank you as he cut back through half the team for an outstanding run, linking well with his forwards and fellow backs.

With minutes ticking away the home side tried once again to take the advantage but the game remained stuck around the halfway line.

As the second half kicked off Aldwinians went on the attack, but the Leamington lads showed their own grit and determination with some great tackles.

Aldwinians forwards driving the ball onward and securing another penalty.

This time Connor Prendergast opted for the three points which Alex Hughes took full advantage of.

By this stage, the Aldwinians’ scrum dominance was in full force and penalties followed, which saw their back really gaining ground but the defensive effort from both sides was outstanding. And even when the ball was turned over, much of the game was played in the middle of the pitch.

The game was fast becoming an arm wrestle as both teams fought for ground and the advantage.

Even a bit of Rugby ping pong could not break the deadlock. In the end, Aldwinians brought it back to basics and the scrum advantage saw them with another penalty 5m out.

This time the drive was not halted or brought down and the front 8 inevitably dotted the ball down over the line.

Leamington stepped it back up again, and with home pride at stake, they drove the ball deep into the Aldwinians’ half.

A line out on the 22m line saw them driving the ball forward and spinning the ball wide, only hands stopping them from scoring a certain try.

The pressure told though and in the end, they scored a well-deserved try in the corner.

Less than ten minutes left on the clock, the home side was enjoying some possession and were attacking at every opportunity.

The Aldwinians’ defence was strong, though. In the end, though the score was not altered and that’s how the game finished.

An epic match worthy of any semi-final and the reward for Aldwinians is a return trip to Darlington to see them face Bradford Salem next week. 

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