Battling Lions edged out in Rooney’s first game back

Gareth Gale scores for Featherstone Lions against Underbank. Picture: Jonathan Buck.
Gareth Gale scores for Featherstone Lions against Underbank. Picture: Jonathan Buck.

Winless Bottom team Featherstone Lions gave their best display this season to push unbeaten National Conference League Division One leaders Underbank Rangers close to Saturday’s game at Mill Pond Stadium.

Lions were pipped 34-26 in Jamie Rooney’s first game on his return as head coach.

Although they were unable to give Rooney a winning start, he was happy with an outstanding effort from the players.

Rooney felt Underbank were more clinical and played with more confidence but he believes Featherstone’s first win of the season is not far away.

Gaz Williamson and Chris Bingham were outstanding in the Lions pack.

Sam Millard and George Nuttall also played well while Ian Jackson and Jake Perkins shone in the backs.

Tom Wandless and Bingham were halted just short of the try line in Featherstone’s bright start before Underbank went ahead against the run of play with a breakaway try.

Williamson tested Underbank’s defence with two excellent breaks before the home side suffered a setback when they lost in-form James Kitchen with an injury.

Featherstone continued to compete superbly and sustained pressure led to Scott Glassell’s clever pass putting in Nuttall for a try that Jackson goaled.

Lions were then punished for conceding two consecutive penalties for dissent when Underbank scored out wide.

Featherstone lost Wandless with a shoulder injury before they fell further behind.

Gaz Gale went close to scoring shortly before half-time.

Trailing 16-6 at the break, Lions started the second-half well.

Williamson, Nuttall and Gale were prominent before a superb pass from Perkins saw Gale brush aside three defenders to score a 25-yard try.

Jackson was held on the try line and Danny Glassell also went close as Lions pressed again.

However, Underbank then scored two converted tries in three minutes to take a commanding 28-10 lead.

Lions refused to throw in the towel and Millard and Bingham paved the way for Josh Fields to crash through for a try that Jackson improved.

Swift handling then saw Davi Garahan, making a welcome return to the side, finish off well in the corner to cut the gap to eight points.

From the re-start, Perkins made a splendid run that led to Williamson being stoppped just short.

Underbank then got the gamebreaking try but Lions had the last word when Williamson crashed over and Jackson goaled.

Lions are without fixture this weekend before they visit promotion contenders Milford Marlins on Saturday, May 6.

Lock Lane, relegated fron the top-flight last season, continued their revival in Division One.

After losing their first two games, Lane are now unbeaten in their last four under head coach Francis Maloney, the former Castleford Tigers and Featherstone Rovers player.

They came out on top 36-20 in Saturday’s home game against Blackbrook despite giving a patchy display.

Blackbrook made it clear they intended to attack at every opportunity and went ahead with a sixth minute try.

Lane quickly bounced back to take control with some expansive rugby that saw them score three tries in a 13-minute spell.

Scrum half Connor Land’s touchdown sparked the scoring burst.

Winger Connor Turner and centre Joe Turton then went over, with Turner kicking two goals and Land one.

A period of sloppy play by Lane was punished when their St Helens opponents scored a converted try.

The visitors nearly scored again but were foiled by Lane’s scrambling defence as a player was held up over the line.

Lane winger Craig Duncan intercepted to relieve the pressure before Joe Willock scored a converted try shortly before half-time to increase their lead.

Blackbrook started the second-half like they had the first with an early try.

Lane then struck an important blow when Lewis Price crashed onto a short pass near the line to score a 55th minute try and Land kicked his third goal.

In the next 20 minutes, Lane should have kicked on but the game then became scrappy with a series of handling errors as both sides threw the ball about with abandon.

With four minutes left, Lane worked an overlap inside their own half to give Willock the chance to gallop 75 yards to score.

Land completed Lane’s scoring by adding the conversion before Blackbrook scored a late consolation.

Second row forward Joe Groves won Lane’s man of the match award.

Prop Danny Lidbury made good yards up the middle and hooker Craig Savage was his usual industrious self.

Land and recent recruit from York City Knights Danny Sowerby directed the home side round the field to cause Blackbrook’s defence numerous problems.

Lane have climbed to fifth in the table, They will aim to keep the good work when they return to league action on Saturday, May 6, with a trip to Shaw Cross Sharks who have lost four of their opening six matches.

Lane’s next home game is against Hunslet Warriors on Saturday, May 13.