Towcestrians triumphed under the lights of NSB against local rivals Old Northamptonians in this high-quality, fast-flowing Lewis Shield semi-final to book their place at Franklins Gardens.
Both teams were short of some of their regular first team players due to ineligibility and it was Tows who showed the greater strength in depth, calling on a large number of their Development squad who have been impressing all season in their league to do the job away from home.
The game started at pace with both teams looking to play a fast expansive running game in the near perfect conditions.
Tows retained possession well and went close early on, putting some great phases of play together and exerting pressure, eventually the ONs could hold out no longer and scrum half Ronnie Speakman barged over from close range, easily converted by Scott Browne, to take an early lead.
ONs responded after early injuries to Tows in the second row and the home side’s greater experience gave them dominance in the scrum which they used to good effect to win penalties and launch attacks from the front foot.
This led to kickable opportunities which they took twice to narrow the gap to one point at 7-6.
Again Tows ramped up the intensity, led excellently by back rowers Eugene Baxter, Kieran Frost and Jonty Barrie doing good work close in before the backs moved it wide for Alex Chalcraft to use his pace, slip his defender and score smartly in the corner for a well-deserved half-time lead of 12 points to six.
ONs upped the pace and directness of their play in the second half but were held out by some resolute Tows defence, who continually turned ball over.
It was Tows who crossed again after a brilliant line break from the dangerous James Hale, who fed inside for Chalcraft to score his second, converted again by Browne, to extend the lead to 19-6.
A number of substitutions disrupted the Tows attack as the ONs looked to get back in the game, but superb defence and big hits, led by Centre Ben Young continually disrupted the home outfit, and after ON’ kicked possession away, it was Tows who looked to have sealed the game with another well-worked try.
The kick was gathered by Aitchison who fed the impressive Young to break the line and quick hands again found the grateful arms of Chalcraft to cross for his hat-trick, unconverted this time, as Tows now led 24-6.
ONs threw everything into the last 15 minutes and a tiring Tows defence could hold them out no longer.
After conceding a penalty, which was kicked to the corner, Tows seemed to switch off as the ONs raced up and took a quick throw to gallop under the posts, converted to close the gap to 24.13.
The last five minutes was frantic with ONs seeming to score under a pile of bodies not given by the referee, eventually did cross as time ran out and Tows came away with a 24-18 victory.
After the game, Tows Development team manager Mark Frost praised the squad’s efforts, saying: “A number of these lads had tough games on Saturday and to put up a performance like that against a very good team was really impressive.
“They have stuck to their task in this cup but also in the league and their dedication has been rewarded by getting to the final.
“But the job isn’t done yet and we must prepare now for that game and the run in of the league program where both 1st XV and Development teams have the chance to be champions.”
Tows hold a five-point lead at the top of the Southern Counties North and travel to seventh-placed Swindon this weekend.