Huddersfield RU 11
Leicester Lions 14
(National II North)
SO NEAR, but yet so far!
After 80 minutes of solid graft, putting their bodies on the line, and tremendous endeavour, all Huddersfield had to show for their efforts was one meagre bonus point.
For large swathes of the game Huddersfield were undoubtedly the better of the two sides on a bitingly cold day at Lockwood Park.
And but for a couple of dodgy decisions and one brief lapse in concentration they could easily have emerged with a much-needed win and a boost to their confidence.
Indeed, at half-time with the score at 6-6 the game, against the sixth-placed team in the division, really looked to be theirs for the taking.
But at the final whistle, it was yet another case of coach Dan Hyde and his hard-working players left pondering what might have been.
Huddersfield winger Luke Booth and Lions’ centre Jonathan Bowden swapped two penalties apiece in the first 40 minutes, although the home side were asking most of the questions.
A penalty apiece in the first five minutes was followed by a super break involving Ben Hoyle, Tom Owen and Mike Clark as Huddersfield were the more enterprising of the two sides.
The half ended with a missed penalty from Booth, but the signs were good and they opened the second period with renewed vigour, and only some great Leicester defence and an unfortunate knock-on denied Huddersfield getting their first try of the game.
New French recruit Julien Lasserre went on early in the second half for Jack Moon on the right wing, but never got a chance to show his worth.
Lions hit the front with a third Bowden penalty, when flanker George Hinchliff had pounced on the ball which had clearly come out of the scrum on the blind side from the referee.
And four minutes later came the real killer blow when the visitors’ Steve Cross had found a good touch after a poor clearance kick from Joel Hinchliffe.
From the line-out, Lions were awarded another penalty, which they quickly tapped, and with Huddersfield’s defence caught napping, swiftly moved the ball across field from where left winger Luke Veebel went over in the corner.
Bowden missed the conversion, but at 14-6 Huddersfield were now even out of bonus-point range.
Whatever their failings, however, nobody can deny Huddersfield’s commitment, and they surged forward again, prop Lawrence Sanderson piling into the defensive line with a number of powerful surges, while centre Lee Paxman almost broke through on a couple of occasions.
In their desperate attempt to keep Huddersfield out, Leicester’s No7 Drew Rudkin was yellow-carded and that was just the chance Field needed as they whipped the ball out wide from where Nick Sharpe off-loaded to Booth, who beat his opposite number and crossed the line for a well-worked try.
Unfortunately, he was unable to add his own conversion, but with the deficit down to just three points, there was still a chance to snatch the win.
But Leicester never allowed them to get back into the danger area again, as they controlled possession in the last eight minutes, Bowden missing a late penalty, rather harshly given for obstruction.
Huddersfield’s relegation fight was further hindered by a victory for fourth-bottom club Birmingham and Solihull, and although there is still time to escape, that time is now starting to run out.
Huddersfield: Owen, Moon, Clark, Paxman, Booth; Hinchliffe, Duffy; Sanderson, Murphy, Stringwell, N Rhodes, G Rhodes, Hinchliff, Hoyle, Sharpe. Subs used: Bell, Meekins, Lasserre, Hyde.
Leicester Lions: Lowdeon, Collins, Boden, Cross, Veebel; Dimmick, Jones, Williams, Williamson, Murray, Cheney, Tuckey, Morris, Rudkin, Gibbons.
Referee: Matthew Daubney (Hull).