A spirited second-half comeback saw a 14-man AEI earn a valuable away draw against the 3rd placed Atherstone and maintain AEI’s unbeaten league start. After honouring the heroic sacrifices of Britain armed services with a perfectly observed one minute silence, AEI set about erasing last week’s poor performance with a display of rigorous tackling and attacking intent.
Disproving the adage about old dogs and new tricks, veteran forward Paul Downs made his first competitive appearance in the front row and performed admirably in an unfamiliar role; only injury prevented him from completing the full 80 minutes. AEI’s front row woes continued when hooker Steve Brown departed the field with 30 minutes played and forced AEI to play the remainder of the match with 14.
The first half was a story of the physicality of the Atherstone pack (although the set piece confrontations were remarkably even), Atherstone finishing the half on top and leading 17-7 with only a Clint Nykamp try to show for AEI’s efforts.
Having regrouped at half-time, AEI discovered a self-belief and purpose hitherto lacking in the previous game and a half and dominated the final 40 minutes. With the forwards squaring up to their opposing pack, the rucks and mauls were fiercely contested and provided penalties from which the AEI backline, in scintillating form in both attack and defence, profited to edge in front 21-17 with 10 minutes to play, Joe Bott again providing the cutting edge.
Unfortunately Atherstone were able to pull 3 points ahead almost from the restart, having finally managed to make their one man advantage count. Undeterred, AEI forced their way deep into Atherstone territory and forced a penalty which the captain decided to kick to come away with a well-deserved draw.
Attention now switches to the top of the table clash away to a Broadstreet side which has yet to drop any points in the league so far. Training as ever is at 7pm at the Rugby Lions.