Rugby League: Brave Lions meet their match at last

Featherstone Lions 20 Hull KR 56
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Featherstone Lions 20 Hull KR 56

Everything comes to an end and Featherstone Lions' run of 22 games without defeat in League and Cup competitions ground to a shuddering halt in their Silk Cut Challenge Cup fourth round tie.

The amateurs from the Second Division of the National Conference always tried to play good rugby, but found themselves up against opponents who were just too strong and knowledgeable for them.

The Lions had won at Doncaster in the previous round, but soon found at Post Office Road last night that Rovers, with a proud Cup tradition of their own in the recent past, were a very different proposition.

The professionals took an early lead with converted tries from Mike Fletcher and Andy Smith. But the local side enjoyed their fair share of play and had their own moments in the first half-hour, notably a wonderful move started by Richard Agar's kick and regather and finished by Graham Simpson's touchdown. Stung, Roverssharpened up their play, Paul Fletcher going over from a pass provided by their orchestrator, Wayne Parker.

That seemed to knock some of the fight out of the Lions during the last 10 minutes of the first half when they fell apart badly, conceding four tries, two of them to Rob Danby and one each to Stanley Gene and the substitute, Des Harrison.

Refreshed and regrouped, the local side at least resumed brightly, going close to a morale-boosting try from Agar's clever little kick before Rovers got into their stride once more. Thirteen minutes into the half, they did so, the ball being moved briskly from the scrum base for Mike Bibby to score in the left corner.

Just before the hour, Mike Fletcher went through for his second try, kicking his seventh goal to announce that the Lions were once more under the cosh.

All the more credit to them, then, for the good handling that brought consolation tries for Simon Bickerton and Richard Jeffries, split by another for Rovers from Bibby.

They face a more important battle when they appeal on Monday against a five-year ban from all Cup competitions imposed after a brawl which, on this disciplined showing, was very much out of character.

Featherstone Lions: Jeffries; Aston, Jepson, Simpson, Bickerton; Agar, N Frankland; Bailey, Northern, Tuffs, Dickinson, Maddison, Roberts. Substitutes used: Owens, Graham, Ramskill, A Frankland.

Hull KR: Sibary; Bibby, Danby, M Fletcher, Rouse; Gene, Parker; Dannatt, Dixon, Thompson, Hill, P Fletcher, Smith. Substitutes used: Crane, McCracken, Kennedy and Harrison.

Referee: S Cummins (Widnes).