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Rugby: Victorious Lions are up and running at a higher level
NEW league, same old Bournemouth. So much for a fear of the unknown.
There will be far greater tests than the one posed when Canterbury visited Chapel Gate on Saturday.
But in winning 32-17 on their maiden appearance in National Two South, Lions showed they have enough to at least compete against the big boys.
English rugby’s fourth tier is uncharted territory for Bournemouth and this game had been decades in the making. But well-drilled, creative and determined, Lions ensured their historic day proved worth the wait.
Faced with fellow newly-promoted outfit Canterbury, David Dunn ’s flair-fuelled team dominated the opening period.
Orchestrating proceedings from fly-half was Ben Stevenson. Labelled the “jewel in the crown” by director of rugby Dunn, the ex-professional notched 22 points on his return to his boyhood club.
Combining an astute kicking game with the inventiveness to release Lions’ hungry runners, the debutant helped Bournemouth to a 19-0 half-time lead. Stevenson’s trusty right boot landed four penalties and a conversion, while Gavin Hart bagged a try by finishing a fine Scott Chislett break.
To their credit, Canterbury looked a team transformed in the second half and piled on the pressure with an early penalty try and an Alex Veale effort. Sloppy and, perhaps, tired at times, Bournemouth were punished.
But even after visiting captain Peter Kelly had crossed in reply to two Stevenson penalties, Lions dug deep. Fittingly, club legend Sam Hardcastle provided the final flourish, his blistering score completing another chapter in the record books.
Lions: K Lynch 8, Stewart 6, Connolly 7, Chis-lett 7.5, Edwards 6 (O’Brien, 50), Stevenson 8.5*, Hardcastle 7.5; Carrell 6.5 (Featherstone, 66), Wilford 7, Manning 7.5, Brooks 6 (Seward, 71), Forrest 6.5, Booth 7 (Andrews, 71), Dunkerley 8 (Cawley, 79), Hart 7.