IT WAS an improved performance by Leamington but ultimately they fell at the first hurdle in the Warwickshire Intermediate Cup after losing 13-38 at home to Midlands 2 East (South) side Olney, reports John Warner.
In superb playing conditions, Leamington started on the front foot and put early pressure on the visitors but the tables were turned quickly as the home side put in a series of swift tackles to stop the Olney attack.
Full-back Kenny Kwok was then forced into a head on challenge with an Olney attacker to keep his line intact.
A break out by Leamington’s Mark Symonds was the only respite before the Olney attack returned, this time claiming a converted score with 16 minutes on the clock.
Leamington however hit back when a counter saw Sam Nunn send a delight ball up the wing for Ryan Byrne whose quick-thinking fed John Raby who in turn fed Kenny Kwok to race away and dive over the try line. Nunn was off target with the conversion attempt but his side were back in the game.
The balance of play once again shifted in favour of the visitors and whilst Shuttleworth pulled off a superb try saving tackle, the Olney attack continued to advance and increased their lead with a try.
Leamington ended the half strongly with a series of probing attacks and when they were awarded a penalty, Shuttleworth forced the ball towards the try line and the ball was eventually gathered by Byrne who crashed over in the corner to cut the deficit to just two points at half-time.
Leamington were certainly looking in good spirits and despite some enforced positional changes, which saw prop forwards playing in the back-row and back- row forwards playing in the centre, they were giving Olney plenty to think about.
The situation got even better when Simon Magill punched a huge hole in the Olney defence with a powerful run allowing Raby the chance to get possession and race in for the score.
Not surprisingly, following the pattern of play to date, Olney responded with some incisive attacking. Fortunately, the home defence had been in good form all afternoon and in particular some robust tackling from Nathan Batchelor had caught the eye on several occasions.
However, such was the constant barrage now from the Olney attack, cracks did become visible in the home defence and the lead was regained, courtesy of a converted score.
Three more tries followed for the visitors, although Leamington continued to focus on playing attacking rugby.
In one sparkling piece of play, Ryan Byrne, who had just caught the visitor’s defence napping with a fine run, continued to pose problems with a neat steal, which almost opened the way for Kwok to capitalise on but it was not to be.
This Saturday Leamington return to league rugby with a trip to Barkers Butts 3pm).