Monday March 2nd 2015
Reporter Richard Payne
Lasswade 17 Preston Lodge 10
This result and Dumfries’ stumble at East Kilbride mean that Lasswade RFC will be playing in National League Two next year. Well done Bernie, Mark and all the players!!!!
This win over second placed local rivals, Preston Lodge and, to be fair, East Kilbride’s 24-18 defeat of now third placed Dumfries mean that Lasswade are first to claim one of the two promotion spots. To go up to National Two as Champions, they now need five points from their remaining visit to Dumfries (7th March) and hosting of Hawick YM (28th) – based on PL getting the maximum ten points from their two fixtures.
Lasswade won the first leg at PL but the teams came into this match with near identical records the only difference being Lasswade’s three more bonus points. It was always going to be a hard, no quarter battle and the sizeable support from both sides were not disappointed.
Mark Billingham trusted in his team’s defence and, as on other occasions, opted to play into the more or less customary wind from Rosewell, blowing moderate to strong for this match.
Having safely gathered the kick-off the hosts were the first to gain territory and worked their way patiently up the park. On their back feet in their 22, PL strayed offside at a ruck and Clarke’s boot drew first blood after just three minutes.
With the weather at their backs and mostly through the efforts of their hefty forwards, Preston Lodge controlled most of the ground for most of the rest of the first half. Several times they were within inches of the Lasswade line but the home defence held and forced errors.
The hosts kept the penalty count down but with four minutes of the half remaining, a ruck offence enabled Patterson to level up the scores but that was their only reward from the first forty minutes.
Just as in the away match-up, Lasswade burst from the blocks in the second half and soon earned a short-range lineout. Knowing their opponents proficiency at this range, PL had successfully neutralised it on a couple of occasions in the first half by offering no contest. On this occasion they couldn’t avoid a maul and were driven over the line for Donald Hearn to claim the five points. Clarke’s conversion stretched the lead to seven.
Lasswade were dominant at this point but their next score started deep in their own half. Andy Hall evaded his opposite number to get behind the defence and had Clarke beside him for the offload. Clarke took play into the PL half where Robertson was at his shoulder and had already given the PL players some problems. With forty metres to go he brushed off several tacklers to clear his own way to the posts and earn Lasswade’s man-of-the-match as well as another try to his tally. Clarke’s conversion was a relative formality.
Preston Lodge knew there was half an hour still in which to salvage the game and immediately stepped up their attacks and their back row and centres kept the Lasswade defence particularly busy. Just before the hour they took the chance to show their own skill at the short range catch and drive and when it disintegrated set up several rucks on the Lasswade line until Dixon found a way through. Patterson narrowed the gap to a converted try.
Each side subjected the other’s defence to the closest of scrutiny for the remainder of the game but neither blinked and Preston Lodge had to resign themselves to a loser’s bonus.
On learning of the Dumfries result and his team’s promotion, Lasswade’s captain, Mark Billingham was obviously proud and pleased and emphasised the team effort involved in the achievement. His sights are still set on the title, though, preferably with a win at Dumfries on 7 March. Kick-off 3pm.
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