Boston Buccaneers’ league season ended in a heart-breaking 36-20 defeat against Leamington Royals in a hard-fought Midland Rugby League Plate Play-off clash.
The Buccaneers finished the regular season in third position in the Midlands North division table and at half-time looked good value for their lead.
However, a strong second half from their West Midland opponents proved decisive in what was a closely fought encounter for large spells of the match played at Ilkeston.
Boston went into the match having not played for a few weeks and some enforced late changes could have made things difficult.
The Buccaneers didn’t let that phase them as they started brightly with a strong wind at their back. Man-of-the-match Dan Philpott was particularly effective in attack to give Boston great field position.
Leamington also posed an attacking threat in the early stages, but strong defence from Boston trio Jordan Cleaver, Jake Keeton and Grant Laws kept them out.
Boston opened the scoring when a great kick and chase was gathered by Will Scupham, who cleverly offloaded for winger George Baldwin to outpace the defence for a try in the corner.
Boston continued to look lively with hooker Liam Croker, who was playing his last match before relocating, distributed the ball well to props Harry Atkinson and Rich Lloyd.
It wasn’t long before Boston’s next score as captain John Stanfield crossed for a try from close range and John Hummel slotted over the conversion.
Three tries were scored in what was a manic last five minutes of the first half. The Royals scored their first try of the match before Boston hit straight back from Stanfield’s clever crossfield kick.
The kick found Keeton lurking on the wing, who was tackled in the air and then the referee awarded a penalty try. Hummel added the extras.
A lapse in concentration from Boston saw Leamington cross for a simple try in the corner as the Buccaneers took a 16-8 lead in at the break.
A series of errors and missed tackles in the second half gifted good field position to the Royals, who scored 10 points to swing the score in their favour at 18-16.
Injuries began to take their toll on Boston who were finding it difficult to contain the now rampant Royals attack. Leamington added a further three tries to put the game out of reach, but Boston refused to give up and battle hard right until the full-time whistle.
Boston managed a final try before the end of the match as Rory O’Sullivan superbly evaded the attention of four defenders to cross for a try under the posts.
The result means that the Royals advance to play Derby in the Plate Final.
Boston, who have seen nine new players feature for them this season, will compete in the London 9s tournament on Sunday, August 25.