LUCTONIANS finished off 2023 with a disappointing 18-17 defeat on the road at Old Redcliffians, to a converted try in the 79th minute after leading for the entirety of the game in Bristol.

The Herefordshire men came out of the blocks fast and playing down the sizeable slope in the first period, got on the scoreboard after four minutes through Number 8 Caleb Montgomery who dotted down at the back of a dominant scrum that pushed Reds off their own ball. Louis Silver missed the conversion, but Lucs had an early 0-5 lead.

The first of what would be many line breaks from the hosts on seven minutes set up a position where they were able to earn a breakdown penalty, which fly half Ashley Groves converted for 3-5.

Lucs would look to seize control of the game over the next 20 minutes as heavy set piece pressure told and Montgomery would dot down at the back of one driving maul.

League leading try scorer Ben Link also got in on the try scoring from almost exactly the same position. Silver would convert the first of these, but his second conversion hit the post something Lucs would later rue as they led 3-17 with 28 minutes on the clock.

Old Reds are used to playing on the big slope on their home pitch and helped by repeated infringements from the visitors, they were able to see out the remainder of the half pressurizing Luctonians line, 3-17 down at the break but knowing they would have the advantage for the second half.

The visitors ground out the first 20 minutes of the second half as play remained largely fixed around midfield, with neither side able to build repeated sets of pressure.

That was until the hour mark when a large-scale ruckus saw four players sin-binned, two from each side and Lucs penalised allowing Groves to knock over another penalty as Reds edged closer at 6-17.

Nothing separated the 13-man sides until the final moments of the sin-bin time, when line break through the middle was recycled and replacement Harry O’Donnell was put in for a score to tighten things further to 11-17.

With both teams restored to their full complement Old Reds took the initiative and replacement scrum-half William Luxford was on the end of another line break from the hosts to score under the posts. Groves converted the easiest of extras on 79 minutes for 18-17 and Lucs could not get the ball back from kick-off, meaning the Bristol based hosts recorded an excellent upset victory.

The losing bonus point Lucs picked up ensures they remain top of the National 2 West league at Christmas, but with much work to do after ending the calendar year with back-to-back defeats.