Battersea 24 Longlevens 39
LONGLEVENS are through to the final of the Junior Vase after a magical day. They will take on Rugby Lions in the final at Twickenham on May 4 after Rugby made home advantage tell to beat Goole 21-17.
Longlevens, from Gloucester One, took 200 supporters with them but it was Battersea who started the strongest, with their large pack competing fiercely at the break down and performing well at the set-piece.
Longlevens’ defence stood firm but conceded a penalty that the Battersea full-back comfortably slotted.
This spurred on the home side and from another powerful rolling maul they spread the ball wide and their outside centre barged his way over. With the conversion the home side held a 10-point lead.
Longlevens rallied with Tom Griffiths and Jack Beck both making short breaks but the nerves were obvious and handling errors were costly.
Mike Hagan slotted a penalty to reduce the deficit but it was cancelled out moments later with another cool strike from Battersea’s number 15.
Longlevens’ scrum was working well and the mobile forwards began to find holes in the home side’s defence.
Matt Lodge and Jake Kitson worked well creating quick ball for fly-half Craig Barden who fed his centres Wilton and Griffiths and they gave flying wing Harry Yorke space to beat his man and the covering full-back to dive over in the corner. Hagan missed the conversion from out wide.
Longlevens were now in full swing and didn't let the sin-binning of wing Jack Beck affect them as once again Harry Yorke found himself in space to outstrip the defence to score his second of the day in the opposite corner and draw the teams level. Hagan again missed from out wide.
Before half time the home side were awarded another penalty which they slotted to take a three-point lead.
The second half didn't start well with another penalty kicked by the hosts and Longlevens began to wonder if it was going to be their day.
They struggled to get into their groove at times and the home side were eating into the clock with their driving mauls.
Coach Richard Rudge rang the changes to get fresh legs on and this seemed to galvanise the Gloucester side.
Tom Evans raced up the park dancing his way through several defenders to score a magnificent solo try to get the visitors up and running again.
It was now free running rugby from the visitors as the travelling supporters roared their side on.
The backs were now opening up the home side’s defence with ease and Tom Griffiths stepped his way through the flagging defence to score.
Ross Preedy, the replacement fly-half, then put Longlevens into good field position with his big boot.
However, he also showed he had quick feet, stepping inside his opposite number to break free and squeeze over into the corner.
Now it was Longlevens who were clock watching with the score at 34-19 yet Battersea were not finished and their powerful outside centre smashed over following another rolling maul.
With five minutes remaining Longlevens slowed the game down.
Jed Jones and Andrew Royce were leading the pack well and with the latter stealing Battersea ball, he realeased Barden again who forced his way up the pitch.
Suddenly, replacement second row Steve Phillips emerged with no cover defence and ran in unchallenged to score. Hagan slotted the conversion and the referee blew the final whistle to spark a mass pitch invasion and celebrations.
Tom Evans was awarded the man of the match for his mesmerising breaks and free running style which Battersea were simply unable to cope with.
LONGLEVENS: Deacon, Davis, Edwards, Jones , Lyons, Hancock, Lodge, kitson, Hagan, Barden, Yorke, Wilton, Griffiths, Beck, Evans. Reps: Stokes, Lane, Philips, Royce, Cross, Yorke, Preedy