Hykeham 2nd xv 7-21 Kesteven 3rd XV: Hard done to Hykeham
Hykeham 2nds were due to make their Merit League debut against Kesteven 3rds at Memorial Fields.
However, Kesteven were unable to raise a 3rd team, so what was largely their 2nd XV (supposed to have been the opposition for our 1sts) travelled. As such the result probably won't count in the league table.
Hykeham were always going to struggle against such tough opposition, but rose to the challenge early on and secured good territory, but totally against the run of play Kesteven's wing found himself in space and counter-attacked from his own 22 to score.
Hykeham responded well and again showed periods of control to get close to striking distance, with the running of debutants Treadwell-Jones, Sturge and Zablockyj always threatening to penetrate the defence.
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But too often poor handling or a lack of support from the forwards saw possession turned over at the crucial time.
Hykeham's dominant possession and solid line out ensured periods of control which have been lacking and following the loss Zablockyj to a shoulder injury, Hykeham responded with a series of good handling and support, for McWoo to score under the posts, converted by Quinlan and deservedly nudging Hykeham ahead 7-5 ahead.
The Kesteven 2 and 9 eventually convinced the referee that he needed their help and saw him send Danny Goulding to the bin for an alleged high tackle.
Despite being down in the pack Hykeham hung on to their lead into half-time.
The second half started in somewhat of a midfield stalemate, until Hykeham eventually got some consistent territory and began threatening the Kesteven 22.
But as has been the familiar story this season a lack of ability in penetrating defensive lines either through poor handling, kicking away possession or lack of support in the final phase.
The turning point of the game was approaching.
Awarding Hykeham a penalty, but Quinlan pushing the ball wide and dead, the referee called correctly for a 22 drop-out.
However, as all on the field prepared for the drop out, the Kesteven centre ran the ball from his goal line, never taking a drop-out.
To the bewilderment of all the referee allowed him to do so, continuing unchallenged to score and convert to put Kesteven into a 12-7 lead.
Hykeham's frustration became evident in their penalties, of which the Kesteven kicker nailed three throughout the remaining 20 minutes.
Hykeham had lost the ability to compete for the ball in the tackle and saw their forwards who had played with control suddenly being penalized heavily.
Eventually losing skipper Beaumont to the sin-bin for trying to strip the ball and culmination. This sin binning served to take all aggression out of the Hykeham pack who were being forced to not compete, thus being unable to turnover and being a man down.
Kesteven applied pressure to the Hykeham line in the late stages, but what had been a solid defence held firm, with Hykeham eventually breaking out with some good handling, only to hear the final whistle sound.
This was a tale of frustration for Hykeham where they can blame themselves for not finishing and creating clear chances and seeing their aggression sapped, but despite that and against higher ranked opposition they played exceptionally well at times and were genuinely only undone by a refereeing decision.
Particularly solid performances from the debutants of Zablockyj and Treadwell-Jones whose performances were the strongest in the backs alongside Rob Sturge.
The return of the Smith brothers was a pleasing sight in the forwards, both showing their abilities in contact alongside Goulding.
Next week sees Hykeham fielding two sides again as the 1sts face higher league opposition in Cleethorpes at home in the RFU Vase, whilst the 2nds travel to Bourne 2nds in the Lincs merit league, both are 3pm KOs and followed by a players' social!