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Scottish survive late Newbury pressure to claim nine in a row

Scottish survive late Newbury pressure to claim nine in a row

London Scottish beat Newbury Blues 26-23 in a gripping National League 1 match at Monk's Lane yesterday, surviving sustained pressure in the closing minutes as the hosts battered their defence in a fruitless attempt to rescue the game.

London Scottish beat Newbury Blues 26-23 in a gripping National League 1 match at Monk’s Lane yesterday, surviving sustained pressure in the closing minutes as the hosts battered their defence in a fruitless attempt to rescue the game.

The win, their ninth in a row, leaves Scottish second in the table, six points behind leaders Esher and five ahead of third-placed Cambridge.

MPU

The match began under light drizzle, which gradually worsened as the afternoon progressed, making handling difficult and resulting in a game punctuated by plenty of tactical kicking and stoppages for knock-ons.

The hosts got the early breakthrough, Nick Scott charging over after being fed by his centre partner, Sam Katz, with fly half Mitch Burton kicking the conversion to claim the extra points. Although the hosts enjoyed opportunities to add to Scott’s try, it was Scottish who seized the initiative during the remainder of the first half.

On 21 minutes, the visitors opened their account through a penalty from full back Frankie Neale, but three minutes later Burton responded in kind to make it 10-3 to the Blues. From the restart, the ball fell to Scottish back row Alex Karonias, who made a surging run before finding skipper Gary Trueman, who crossed over.

Neale missed his conversion attempt, but made amends five minutes later when he set up the try of the afternoon, when Newbury launched a garryowen into the Scottish half which the full back claimed coolly under pressure before running half the length of the pitch, evading a series of tackles and setting up centre Rory Damant to touch down in the corner. From a difficult angle, Neale missed the chance to add the extra points, but Scottish went in to the interval 13-10 ahead.

Immediately from the restart, the visitors stretched their lead through a try that typified the afternoon’s difficult handling conditions, with Newbury losing possession, allowing Trueman to kick the ball through for left wing David Howells to run onto. Like his captain, Howells chose to use feet to propel the ball towards the line, before outsprinting the Newbury defence to get the vital touch, the referee awarding the try after consulting his touch judge. This time, Neale made no mistake with his conversion kick, giving Scottish a 20-10 lead.

To their credit, Newbury forced their way back into the match. Another penalty from Burton on 47 minutes clawed back three points, and five minutes later he levelled the score after converting a try that he had set up by running through the Scottish defence before passing to Katz to score.

On the hour, another Neale penalty put Scottish 23-20 ahead, but Burton quickly restored parity. Then, on 65 minutes, the hosts were temporarily reduced to 14 men when forward Dan Hodge was sin-binned for a professional foul. Despite a series of drives from the forwards in the left-hand corner, Scottish were unable to push over, but were rewarded with a penalty which Neale calmly put over for what turned out to be the decisive score.

In the closing minutes, Newbury’s forwards were encamped on the Scottish 22, but frustratingly for their supporters, the visitors’ back division quickly stifled any attempts to find gaps out wide. Meanwhile, the Scottish pack’s refusal to yield meant Burton was unable to get in range to attempt the drop goal that would have tied the scores, and a sizeable travelling contingent joined the visiting players in cheering the final whistle.

London Scottish head coach Brett Taylor said that the side’s run of nine wins that has taken them to second place in the league meant that “people will want to play against us,” and acknowledged that Newbury had been “very physical, very passionate, and very energised about the game.” But he added that his side had “dealt with the conditions and some of the decisions really well, and kept their cool,” saying “the patience and belief in the defence, especially in the last two minutes, showed real character.”

Next week, Scottish host Tynedale at the Athletic Ground in a match that kicks off at 3pm.

Home Team
Tries: Scott, Katz
Conversions: Burton (2)
Penalties: Burton (3)
Away Team
Tries: Trueman, Damant, Howells
Conversion: Neale
Penalties: Neale (3)
Home Team
Williams, Perry, Scott, Katz, Freeman, Burton, Gasson, Rowland, Prosser, McGrath, Hodge, Pape, Ascroft-Leigh, Cannock, Coxon-Smith 
(Replacements: Fidler, Oliver, Widdop, Howells, Avery)
Away Team
Neale, Broughton, Damant, Trueman, (Captain), Howells, Brown, Amor, M Johnson, Standfield, Fahey, Karonias, A Smith, Yellowlees, Lonergan, Lipp 
(Replacements: Culley, Palmer, Elis, Grant, McInroy)
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