Luctonians maintained their ten point gap at the top of National League 2 West, with a 17-30 victory down in Weston-Super-Mare last Saturday, but were run very close by a combative Hornets side, who belied their lowly 11th place position in the division.

On a bitterly cold day in Somerset, Lucs started the better and a spell of pressure inside the hosts 22 metre area which returned a penalty in front of the sticks which was duly knocked over by Louis Silver for 0-3.

The hosts would counter attack immediately after the kick off as Lucs kicked and left the ball on the pitch, and within one phase full back Luke Graham had been released down the left hand wing to score. Fly half Jamie Elswood could not convert but Hornets lead 5-3 after 17 minutes.

As has often been the way this season, when Lucs need to turn to something for points, it has been the driving maul that has delivered, and this time it was Seb Robinson, on what was his 100th National League appearance for Luctonians, who was at the back of the pile of bodies to dot down for 5-8 on 20 minutes, after more indiscipline from the hosts gave Lucs the opportunity and field position.

Things would get even better for the men from Herefordshire before the half was out, as the league’s leading try scorer, hooker Ben Link, collected a miss thrown lineout by Hornets on their own 5 metre line, and he crashed over. With Silver adding the extras Lucs would take a 5-15 lead into the interval.

Knowing the next score in this game would likely be vital, both teams gave it a thrash at the beginning of the second stanza, but it was once again the men in black and white who came up with the goods, as a fine set-piece move opened up the defence for the elusive Josh Watkins to motor through from 40 metres out, untouched on his way to the try line, and with Silver once more adding the extras Lucs looked to be out of sight at 5-22 with 51 minutes on the clock.

But Hornets are a stubborn beast at their Hutton Moor Road ground and showed why they have scored more points than any other at home this season, firing in two tries through winger Lyon Harrison and replacement Declan Dorrington, who scored an excellent team try, in a 15 minute spell where they seized momentum in the game. Unfortunately for the hosts though, Elswood’s second conversion attempt drifted wide, and this left Lucs with a 17-22 lead with seven minutes remaining.

Lucs would re-gather position soon after the restart, and another penalty, this time for offside from the home side, allowed Silver to ease the game out to two scores once more with three more points in the 76th minute.

With the game now won, the focus for the visitors turned to capturing the fourth try for the league bonus point and crucially they delivered with the final play of the game. Charlie Grimes produced a piece of brilliance and tore through the Hornets defence, taking Lucs from their own half to well into the opposition’s 22 and a quick recycled ball was put through the hands, for centre Rob Aikman to score in the corner, securing the full five point haul for the men from Kingsland.

Given all the other title contenders secured five-point wins last Saturday, that final Aikman score was essential to maintain the lead Lucs have established at the top of the division. Whilst this 11th win of the season from their 12 games to date was not the prettiest, the visitors will be delighted to return from another tough venue with maximum points, as they go into their final home game of 2023 against 5th placed Hinckley this coming weekend.

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Picture Credit – Nigel Mee