Vipers produce their best yet to reach Vase final
Luton Vipers produced a near perfect performance in their East RL Vase semi-final as they rallied to a 40-20 victory at Eastern Rhinos on Saturday.
First half tries from speedster PJ McParland, Alex Hill and Will Bennett looked to be the boost the Vipers needed, but again they stepped off the gas in the second quarter and allowed the home side back into the game.
The Rhinos had a youthful, yet powerful squad and used their battering rams to find chinks in the Vipers line, which their pacy half backs exploited.
Despite the great start, the visiting Vipers found themselves 16-14 down at the break.
Strong showings were put in by McParland, who finally looks at home on the wing and carried superbly throughout, plus star man Yousef Richards, who is now almost the complete machine with big carries, support running and delicate touches which came to good use in the second period.
The Vipers, undeterred by the Rhinos’ rapid first half scores, came out after the interval full of confidence.
Matt Jones began orchestrating from half back as the Vipers started to find holes in the home side’s armour and were able to take advantage in the best way possible.
Scores were added by Alex Hill, who ran a superb support line off Richards’ shoulder to dot down under the posts, Scottish duo Jack Coates and Jordan Marshall, with Tom Winch rounding it off.
The final 20 minutes showed head coach Ieuan-Rhys Beal that the Vipers can be a strong attacking threat, and more importantly they can also defend firmly, only leaking one try.
Speaking afterwards, Beal said: “The lads dug deep and despite a few errors we know we can iron out in training that was our best performance so far.
“Everyone fought for the jersey. I saw a passion in the second half that I hadn’t seen before.
“I now think this can be the catalyst that propels our season forward.
“Justin Harkin was superb around the park again, and Jake Barnes looked strong, often carrying two to three men with him on each carry.
“But the stand out performer was Yousef. He’s shown glimpses of his quality in previous games, but he just took it up a level or two and really took the game to the Rhinos.
“We are still missing key players in Dom Barnes, Tom Williams and Alex Lovell, who do make a big impact when they get on the ball.
“We have a few weeks off now and I am hoping the lads can rest up and come back firing on all cylinders for the Magic Weekend.”