Next stop Welford Rd

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THE original red, white and green of Lutterworth RFC will proudly adorn Tigers’ Welford Road ground in the Leicestershire County Cup final at the end of the season for an historic first time in the club’s 140-year history.

The landmark fixture is their reward for pipping visitors Loughborough 31-29 in an exciting semi-final struggle at the weekend.

Lutterworth were swiftly in front on Saturday, catching the opposition offside and full-back Aaron Dann slotting the resulting penalty.

Moments later, massive defence and a second counter-ruck turned defence into attack for the home side and with a further penalty awarded for dissent, Lutterworth gained a lineout just 10 yards from the visitors’ line.

An attempted clearance was charged down by scrum half Dan Linacre, who scored in the corner to extend the lead.

A further Lutterworth score followed just two minutes later with winger Bradley Pell showing a clean pair of heels to the opposition winger and fullback to score near the posts, although the conversion hit the post.

From the restart Loughborough drove hard upfield and appeared to score, but a midfield infringement spotted by the line judge brought play back for a Lutterworth penalty.

Home flanker Charlie Turner was turning over opposition lineout ball almost at will but both teams were making simple mistakes. A missed penalty by the visitors was a further let-off.

A further transgression turned opportunity three minutes later finally put the visitors on the scoresheet, and another determined attack through the middle brought their first try, diminishing Lutterworth’s early lead – a lead which disappeared completely as a double dummy by the visiting centre gave Loughborough their second try.

A change of pace was clearly needed by Lutterworth to recover the lead and an early penalty for a high tackle after the interval closed the gap.

From the resulting kick-off; Lutterworth forwards put together the finest display of open forward play seen at Ashby Lane this season with Turner, flanker Joe Sullivan, hooker Warren Tebb, No 8 Adam Conway and prop Ed Hopkins systematically crashing through the Loughborough defence.

Moments later poor handling and an infringement allowed Loughborough to regain a four-point margin.

But Loughborough’s forwards were tiring and a scrum marched forwards put them on the back foot. Winger Jarrad Carter kicked high and as the winger caught the ball, he was dispatched out of play.

A penalty for offside gave Lutterworth a lineout on Loughborough’s 22 and a clean catch, spin left and forward push through the defence gave Jack Edwards space for a fine debut drop goal to bring the home team back to within one point.

But shortly after, their effort was again annulled by an infringement and penalty goal accepted by the visitors.

For a full 10 minutes fierce defence by both sides saw handling errors abound with neither team conceding ground in the midfield battle.

A further penalty saw the visitors pull further ahead before Lutterworth retrieved a lost lineout ball and took full advantage.

Prop Ed Hopkins 
set up the ruck for scrum half Dan Linacre to feed half back Dan Ford, who fed winger Pell, who in turn drew the defence further to present winger Jarrad Carter with his first first-team try.

A fifth penalty goal was conceded before a box kick from Ford and attempted clearance by the Loughborough full back was painfully charged down by Carter, taking the ball full in the face.

Fortunately for the Lutterworth winger he quickly gathered himself, beat the retreating defence to the ball and touched down, Aaron Dann converting to provide the team with a slim lead they didn’t surrender.

Captain Richard Jones took the lead in the final minutes, crashing through the middle and wisely clearing loose ball to touch.

Two late penalties allowed the home side to gain ground but keeping the ball was the game now and the final play was a simple kick to touch.