Despite spending lengthy periods in the Burton “22” Longton lost this Staffordshire Cup Final by 27pts. to 24 having held a 24 – 13pts. lead midway through the second half and outscoring their opponents by 4 tries to 3. In the end Burton deserved their victory for playing a more expansive game whilst Longton tried too often just to batter their way through with their forwards.
In front of a large crowd at Lichfield on a perfect playing surface Burton began the stronger and took an early lead with a penalty after 4 minutes. This was increased after 12 minutes to 6 – 0pts. with a second penalty. Longton finally began to string some phases together through a series of forward drives. With 16 minutes gone a lineout drive 5m. out from the Burton line was halted and the ball was moved out to Grant Hallam in the centre. He spun out of two tackles before crashing over for the first try of the game; he converted his own score to put Longton 7 – 6pts. ahead.
Longton returned to the attack as they tried to feed leading try scorer, Sam Evans, on the left wing but the Burton defence did well to contain the flying winger and he was unable to break through. Burton then attacked down the left flank as their backs moved the ball well at pace but Longton managed to repel the onslaught and returned to the attack. As half-time approached Longton were camped within 10m. of the Burton line but could not breach the Burton defensive line try as Craig Wilson, Mikey Allen, Rich Thompson and Dan Smith were all halted within feet of the line. During this period of intense Longton pressure Burton lost a man to the sin bin making their defensive effort all the more praiseworthy.
With 43 minutes played Longton lost possession in a strong attacking position and were made to pay as Burton broke quickly upfield to score a try under the posts. The conversion made the half-time score 13 – 7pts. to Burton.
The second half was only 5 minutes old when Burton lost the ball in midfield. It was snapped up by Seva Bulumakau who proceeded to side-step his way past several defenders to score a fine try. The conversion just missed the uprights making it 13 – 12pts. to Burton.
With 8 minutes of the half gone Longton moved the ball quickly off a lineout out to the backs from where full-back, Jack Newton-Taylor, joined the line and he weaved his way to the line for a superb try. Grant Hallam converted to put Longton 19 – 13pts. ahead. With 18 minutes gone Longton attacked down the left through Sam Evans and although he was tackled with the line in sight the move was continued and Martin Ellis took a short pass to crash over for the try. The conversion went just wide but Longton now led by 24 – 13pts. and looked to be gaining control.
However, Burton were not finished as they gained possession direct from the kick-off and first went left and then right to create an overlap to score wide right. The try was superbly converted to make it 24 – 20pts.
At this point Burton kicked sensibly to relieve pressure taking play deep into Longton territory but instead of clearing their lines Longton tried to run the ball from their own “22”. In so doing they lost possession and from a Burton scrum in front of the Longton posts Burton wheeled left for their flanker to crash over. The conversion was good taking Burton into a 27 – 24pts. lead.
Longton threw everything at Burton for the remainder of the game constantly driving at the line through their forwards but they could not find a way through, despite Burton conceding several penalties. With the last play of the game Burton gave away another penalty some 5m. from their own line. As Longton were preparing to take a quick tap the touch judge intervened and after a few minutes discussion with the referee, to everyone’s amazement, the penalty was reversed. Burton kicked the ball into touch to end the game with a 27 – 24pts. win, leaving Longton to rue the numerous opportunities they squandered.