A severely depleted Burnley and Pendle Lions team travelled to Blackbrook Rugby Club in St Helens on Saturday and were beaten 50-22.
Blackbrook took the lead early on when a series of powerful drives sucked in the Lions defence – they found numbers out wide and the winger squeezed in for the first try of the game which was impressively converted.
Deputising at stand off Mark Fisher was organising well but handling errors were killing the visitors as time and again possession was overturned and Blackbrook, with their greater experience, punished them.
Defensively the Lions went toe-to-toe with Blackbrook. The pack held the middle ground led by prop Jordan Lord ably supported by his teammates Zac Child and Simon Wrigley.
However, the Blackbrook attack always seemed to work an overlap on the fringes and after 30 minutes they raced into a 20-0 lead.
As is typical of this Burnley and Pendle side, they never give up. Redoubling their defensive efforts the Lions forced a fumble in the Blackbrook 22.
With Jordan Lord and Caleb White running hard close to the Blackbrook line veteran Ian Coates sneaked over from dummy half to open the scoring for the visitors. This spurred on the home team once again. From a kick on the last tackle the Blackbrook full back slipped the ball out of the covering tackle, finding his winger who raced the length of the field to stretch the half-time score to 30-6.
Blackbrook started the second half strongly and once again off the back of a knock on they shifted the ball out wide to open their second half account.
This Blackbrook team is probably the quickest and most organised side that the Lions have met in recent history – time and again they whipped the ball out wide to take advantage on the fringes and on the hour mark they held a 44-6 advantage.
However, Burnley and Pendle responded as the halves, Will Holden and Mark Fisher, started to click and other players came to the fore.
A try by Simon Wrigley from close to the line seemed to galvanise the visitors and the Lions started playing their best rugby of the game.
An impressive second half performance by Ash Nuttall and Zac Child resulted in gains out wide with Nuttall crashing over for a well-deserved try.
Unfortunately it was too little, too late as scrum half Will Holden side-stepped a number of defenders to score under the posts.
The final score was 50-22 with the home side under severe pressure for the last half hour.
If the Lions had started the game as they had finished it could have been a totally different story.
Burnley and Pendle will have the chance to put the record straight when Blackbrook make the return trip on Saturday, June 25.