On Saturday we traveled over to Cheshire to play old rivals Chester in the first away game of the season. The game had been in doubt due to the passing of Her Majesty on the Thursday so preparations were somewhat disrupted and many would say that perhaps the RFU should have postponed all fixtures.
Chester are a well organised team who like ourselves try to play open rugby and are a team that never give up. They started the game very strongly and scored after only three minutes with a well worked try in the left hand corner. They added the conversion and were 0-7 in the lead, deservedly so, playing direct, high tempo rugby. However we responded almost immediately, with a great try for hooker Danny Maher, after a powerful catch and drive by the forwards. Steve Collins added the conversion which levelled the score 7-7.
This was a frustrating half of rugby for the Tigers, as we gave a number of penalties away that cost us possession and territory and allowed Chester to gain momentum. However, we went further ahead on the half hour with a penalty from Steve, but Chester came back with their second try, following a scrum on our 40 metre line. They moved the ball to the blind side and quick hands saw their centre score in the top right hand corner. The half time score 10-12 to Chester. We had made a number of good line breaks in this half but were unable to finish them off due to handling errors and not controlling the breakdown.
The second half started much the same as the first with both teams cancelling each other out. Chester looked to disrupt our strike plays at every opportunity with their rush defence, which meant we could not get any tempo or continuity together. Despite this our set piece line out and scrum was solid which gave us the platform to test their defences but another handling error deep in our 22 saw their right winger gather a loose ball and score in the right hand corner. They added the conversion and now had a commanding lead 10-19 going into the last ten minutes.
The way the game was going it looked as if the home side were going to take the points and deservedly so. However the fitness and resolve of the Tigers came through in the end. After taking the play deep into the Chester half by building phase after phase and looking after the ball, Steve chipped over their defence for full back Andy Riley to gather and touch down. Steve added the conversion and we were right back in the game 17-19 with five minutes left. Chester continued to hang on and keep us out and must have thought that they had done it, but they gave a penalty away in front of the posts. Steve stepped up and converted to give us the win 20-19 in the last play of the game.
We took the four point win but many would say that the better team lost on the day. This was not a good performance by the Tigers but credit must go to Chester who played really well and possibly deserved more. We have a lot of things to work on this week before we face Preston Grasshoppers at home on Saturday and we will address these in training. Please come down to Park Lane this weekend and support your Tigers Team.