Stoneygate avenged last season’s President’s Cup final defeat when they beat old foes Aylestone 33-31 in the Leicestershire Merit League on Saturday.
The visitors started the match much the stronger side, despite good early field position from Gate as Athletic held out and marched back down field into the home side’s territory.
The travelling side continued their early dominance by scoring two converted tries within the first 10 minutes.
The first try came after multiple phases of picking and driving from the forwards saw good recycling of the ball and close control pay off with Aylestone crossing the line.
The second try was a very different effort – this time the Athletic back line linked up to cross in the corner to leave their Uppingham-based hosts trailing 14-0.
With the defeat in last season’s final very much at the forefront of Stoneygate thoughts, they fought back gallantly.
Gate’s first response was a try for skipper Will Cropper after a smart move from the back of an attacking scrum.
Number eight James Agar collected the ball from the base and offloaded it to openside Jaryd Taylor who, in the tackle, managed to lift the ball back in to the hands of the oncoming scrum-half Cropper. Jack Clark converted to make it 7-14.
A second Gate try this time for Mike O’Keeffee again came after an attacking scrum and, in similar fashion to Aylestone’s opener, it was the forwards showing neat interplay which resulted in the points.
Before the half-time whistle the sides again exchanged points, a third try for Athletic was followed by a penalty kick for Gate which left the score at 15-26 at the break.
The second half was a tale of fitness and desire.
From the off, Stoneygate proved the fitter of the two sides with a more expansive game plan showing through and putting the visitors under increased pressure.
A first try for Gate for openside Jaryd Taylor and two further penalties from fly-half Clark saw the sides draw level at 26-26 with 20 minutes still to play.
With the visitors visibly tiring as the game drew to a close, it was the accurate rugby shown by Stoneygate which led to what would be the match winning try.
Again it was the back-row combination of Taylor and Agar who broke through the Athletic defence and eventually it was Agar who crossed the line to score under the posts. Clark added the conversion for a 33-26 lead.
In the dying moments of the match, Aylestone did fight their way back upfield for a try in the far corner, but it was too wide out to seal a draw as the conversion was missed.
Agar was man-of-the-match on the day with a fantastic performance all over the park, topped off with the match-winning try.
Stoneygate’s next fixture on Saturday is away at Ashby, kick-off 3pm.