Tigers ease to win after long lay-off

Sheffield Tigers Richard Joel powers forward vs Hereford
Sheffield Tigers Richard Joel powers forward vs Hereford

Andy Barnes is ever the realist.

The Sheffield Tigers skipper, like his teammates, was just happy to get back to playing the game after an enforced six week lay-off due to snow and ice.

He knew they would be short of match fitness but, given the quality of the opposition, that was never really an issue as Tigers brushed aside bottom club Hereford 45-9.

Another plus factor for the Dore Moor leader was the victory was made all the sweeter with a personal two-try flurry.

He said: “It was a nice way to ease ourselves back in, considering we were short of match fitness.

“Last week was the first time we’d really trained as a squad for around six weeks because of the weather. The players had taken personal responsibilty for maintaining their own level of fitness but match fitness is a different thing altogether.

“We knew we wouldn’t be up to the level we were before the snow and ice disrupted things and skills-wise we were a little rusty but the lads gave it everything.

“If I’m honest Hereford were quite a weak outfit and you could see why they’re bottom of the table but that shouldn’t take away from us how well we aquitted ourselves.”

It’s now six wins on the bounce and means that Tigers are now seventh in the National Three Midlands League, just 12 points behind leaders South Leicester but with a match in hand.

The one good thing about the lay-off is that it’s given all the injured players time to recover and Tigers have a full squad to choose from, which is just as well considering how relentless it will be over the next three months.

“We’ve now got everything to play for,” added Barnes. “We’re getting to grips with what the League is all about as we’ve played most of the teams and now know how they play along with their strengths and weaknesses.

“That certainly helps us in the return fixtures and most of the teams above us have to come to Dore Moor, which is an added bonus.”

It took Tigers 15 minutes to get the scoreboard moving against Hereford, courtesy of centre John Buchanan’s unconverted try after a feed from No8 Sam Cook but the visitors reduced the gap within two minutes via a penalty.

Tigers were not to be denied and Gregor Hayter stormed over and Jonny West then added the conversion to make it 12-3 only for them to concede another penalty at the ruck and Hereford again took advantage.

However, the home side continued to dominate and they increased their lead after 35 minutes when good line-out ball enabled Buchanan to repeat his earlier try, this time from 35 metres and West again converted. Hereford notched a further three points but Tigers held sway 19-9 at half-time.

Frank Wragg replaced Cook and within five minutes a strong forward drive enabled prop Sam Lockwood to touch down for a seven pointer. Alex Drage then came on for West at scrum half and shortly after Barnes bagged an unconverted try to open the gap to 31-9 with 20 minutes still remaining.

Tigers took full advantage when one of the Hereford pack received a yellow card after 65 minutes and Barnes claimed his second try which Joe Wright converted. With five minutes left Drage scored an excellent individual try and Wright again added the extras.

Team: Cone, Thompson, Lockwood (Ross), Hayter, Joel, Barnes, Pearson N, Cook (Wragg), West (Drage), Wright, Clarke, Buchanan, Outram, Turner, Feeley.

Tigers go on a revenge mission on Saturday when they travel to second-bottom Burton whose strong second half fightback earned them the points in a 16-13 victory at Dore Moor back in October. According to Andy it could develop into a ‘big, physical battle’. This is followed by the visit of third-from-bottom Kenilworth and then an away clash at Old Northamptonians who lie just below Tigers in the table.

Table: South Leicester Pld 13 pts 50, Bromsgrove 13 48, Longton 13 45, Newport (Saloop) 13 43, Broadstreet 12 39, Luton 13 39, Sheffield Tigers 12 38, Old Northamptonians 12 34, Malvern 13 34, Peterborough 13 22, Scunthorpe 12 21, Kenilworth 13 17, Burton 13 16, Hereford 13 12.