Local Rugby: Loughborough Students and Leicester Lions battle to vital home victories
Loughborough Students and Leicester Lions held their nerve to land important home victories in their penultimate matches of 2012.
Students recovered from a 17-0 half-time deficit to beat Cinderford 28-25 in National One, while Lions again demonstrated their superb form at Westleigh Park with a 10-9 National Two North success against play-off chasers Preston Grasshoppers.
Loughborough stormed out after the interval and reduced the arrears to three points within 13 minutes through tries from Matt Rogerson and Chris Kinloch, both converted by Stuart Hall.
Another Cinderford penalty stretched the lead before Students finally got themselves in front with 11 minutes to go. Rhys Owen crossed and Hall added the extras.
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Jordan Brooks secured the bonus point four minutes later and Hall again did the business to put Students 28-20 ahead.
A late try gave Cinderford hope but, ultimately, it proved to be just a bonus point as Loughborough held on.
Students are now 11 points clear of the bottom three and are just seven points behind a Cinderford side who sit comfortably in mid-table.
Lions have now won six out of eight league fixtures at home after seeing off another top-six side.
Sean Taylor kicked two penalties for visitors Preston before Lions captain Gareth Collins got the all-important try after 37 minutes.
Jonathan Lowdon converted but Taylor added another penalty to put Preston back ahead by the interval.
Visiting hooker Philip Mills saw red after 53 minutes but gutsy Grasshoppers held on until the 68th minute when Lions replacement Jon Boden slotted the winning penalty.
South Leicester and Hinckley were narrow National Three Midlands winners.
Third-placed South had a 17-15 win against Longton, while Hinckley remain fifth after taking the derby honours by a narrow 22-17 margin at Syston.
Before the game at Welford Road, both South Leicester and Longton paid their respects to long-serving South member Alan Cocks, who passed away last week.
It was a tough game for South as, although Sam Greasley scored early on, he and Josh McLaurin were sent to the bin and Longton took advantage to move 15-5 ahead.
South dragged themselves back into the game when McLaurin crossed before he saw red.
South kept pressing and Joe Glover's last-gasp conversion of a penalty-try sealed the four points.
Phil Brocken, Kris McFedries and leading scorer Devon Constant were on target for Hinckley against Syston at Barkby Road, while the consistent Josh Smith added two conversions and a penalty for his side.