A ‘FANTASTIC’ team effort from Barton fell narrowly short as they exited the Junior Vase at the quarter-final stage at home to Rugby Lions.
With a semi-final appearance at stake, and after a lacklustre start against Redditch the previous week, Barton came flying out of the traps.
The hosts put together phase after phase, with the forwards recycling wonderfully well.
But the Lions defence stood strong, with their larger pack meeting the oncoming runners head on.
Barton gave as good as they got and Shaun Leek broke the deadlock after 10 minutes to bulldoze over.
Jamie Maxwell duly made the conversion and Barton were up and running following some convincing play.
Rugby have yet to taste league defeat this season, and boast an unblemished record of eight wins from eight in Midlands Five West South.
The visitors have plundered almost 500 points during those games, and the early score for the hosts only fuelled Lions’ fire.
Rugby reclaimed the kick-off and a couple of scrums later the visitors’ No.8 picked and popped to the looping Rugby flanker, who burrowed over in the corner.
It was a well-worked move, but one Barton should have been quick enough to nullify.
The missed conversion meant that Barton still led – but both teams knew that they were going to be in for a hard fought battle.
A series of infringements hampered Barton’s efforts for the remainder of the first half.
Rugby were awarded numerous scrums and penalties – and the Lions clearly enjoying the upper-hand with their weight and size advantage.
Rugby had one second row who reached the dizzy height of 6ft 9in.
The visitors kicked a penalty and added a try in quick succession to move ahead.
Barton battled away in the latter stages of the opening period, but made little headway with the visitors controlling the set piece in all its facets.
After the break Barton took the game to Rugby, looking to build their phase play.
But the hosts were found wanting on the blind-side when a neat bit of inter-play between the visiting centres led to Rugby’s No.8 crashing over.
It was another try that could have been avoided, but still acted to spur the hosts on.
Rugby lost their towering second row presence to the sin-bin, which enabled Barton to gain parity in the set piece and get some forward ball.
With a vocal home support behind them, Ian Lancaster went over the line to launch an unlikely comeback.
Barton’s vigour and guile began to come to the fore – with every team member at some point battering into the Rugby’s defensive line.
The visitors started to creek, giving away penalties as Barton built momentum.
Martin Woolston took a quick tap with all the Rugby contingent off-side and knowing a tackle would yield another penalty closer to the whitewash.
Woolston took full advantage and weaved his way through to score a superb individual try.
Maxwell, who enjoyed a superb day with the boot, again converted.
The extras left Barton eight points adrift, but despite their best efforts – including coming close to another try – the hosts failed to make further headway.
Stand-in skipper Jonathan Higgins hailed Barton’s bid to get back into the game.
He said: “It was a fantastic team effort, and that never-say-die attitude is something that is becoming nicely instilled within the team and squad.
“Rugby dominance for the majority of the first half in the set piece proved to be the difference.
“Good luck to them in the rest of the cup – they will take some beating.
“We now look to the New Year now and will be fully concentrating on the league.”