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03 February 2020

Mike Butt and Lewis Hatton gave Swinton Lions an opening day win against newly-promoted Whitehaven in the Betfred Championship.

The Lions travelled to cold damp Cumbria for what on paper was going to be a tough season opener against a side that had swept everyone aside last season to gain promotion from League 1, but the new boys on the block were taught a lesson on how to defend as Stuart Littler’s side comfortably won the game and didn’t allow the home side to score a single point.

Defence was key for the Lions and in the final ten minutes it was made even harder when Rhodri Lloyd and Mike Butt were both sent to the sin bin but the young Lions side were determined that Haven would not cross the line, and were rewarded with a fantastic victory in the difficult conditions.

It was the worst possible start to the new season for the home side when Karl Dixon’s kick-off sailed straight dead putting the Lions on the attack from the very first minute.

Pressure on the Haven line forced goal line drop outs on the first two sets on the line and the defence cracked in the fifth minute when a great short pass near the line sent Lewis Hatton crashing over by the posts. Jack Hansen added the conversion. It was nearly all Lions pressure on the Haven line in the opening quarter forcing the home side into handling errors but they couldn’t score.

Haven came strong just before the break but some more great tackling and a couple of forward passes made sure that nothing came of it.

Mike Butt put the Lions further ahead just after the restart when he chased a kick to win the race to score the try right in front of the large following band of Lions fans and again Hansen made no mistake with the conversion.

Haven came strong again with more chances on the Lions line but again great defence kept them at bay and no points were conceded. It was a case of handbags with nine minutes left with both teams pushing and pulling and this ended with Rhodri Lloyd and Haven winger Andrew Bulman both being sent to the sin bin and the penalty going to the home side. With six minutes left Hansen tried to add a drop goal for the Lions but he scuffed his kick and it went under the crossbar.

Mike Butt was also sent to the sin bin with five minutes to go for holding down and Haven were on the attack again but a superb ball and all tackle from Rob Fairclough stopped the home side scoring on the right and he even forced a knock on too.

The Lions made the game safe with just seconds left when Hansen was tackled without the ball right in front of Havens posts and the penalty was awarded so he got up dusted himself down and sent the conversion sailing between the posts as the final hooter sounded and the fans went wild behind the posts.

Ian Rigg reporting from the Recreation Ground



Lions: Butt, Lepori, Morris, Cox, Wood, Hansen, Fairclough, Bennion, Waterworth, Hatton, Lloyd, Halton, Hope. SUBS: Thomas, Jones, Kenga, Brogan.

Tries: Hatton (5), Butt (45)     Goals: Hansen 3/3

Whitehaven: Forrester, Bulman, Mossop, Taylor, Thompson, Dixon, Aiye, Shackley, C.Phillips, Coward, B.Phillips, Moore, Wilkinson. SUBS: Newton, Kelly, Walker, Bradley.


Referee: Gareth Hewer     Pens: 10-9     Att: 803     HT: 0-6

Picture credits: Emily Parker and Pete Green


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