Somerset Premier
Burnham-on-Sea 17, Imperial 12

BURNHAM collected their fifth straight victory on Saturday, to keep pace with fellow unbeaten sides Minehead Barbarians and Oldfield Old Boys at the Somerset Premier summit.

The home clash with Imperial was a ‘double header’, as both teams agreed to combine the league fixture with the first round of the Somerset Vase – the trophy Burnham won last season.

This fixture has tended to be closely-fought, but it was the hosts who had the upper hand in the first half.

Possession of the ball flitted back and forth, but it was the Stags who made use of their possession and territory, despite the visitors dominating the scrum throughout.

When the ball was fed out wide from a set-piece, some well-worked interlinking in the back line gave outside centre Josh Holder the opportunity to cross for the first try of the game after 15 minutes, and Tim Piper converted.

Imps were dogged and ruthless at most breakdowns, slowing the ball down for the next 15 minutes, but when quick ball was produced they struggled to defend out back.

The Stags knew that patience would pay off, and that was the case when full-back Alex Watkins created an overlap and scored to extend the lead, with Piper’s conversion making it 14-0.

Piper then slotted a penalty shortly after the second try, and although the away side finished the half stronger, solid defence and some poor handling errors denied them.

The second half was a different story, as Imperial opted for scrums when infringements were given.

The Stags struggled to contain the ball on their own put-in, conceding a penalty on the 5m line, and they could not hold back the oncoming set of forwards as Imps scored an unconverted try from the base of the scrum.

The visitors remained on the attack, but they regularly gave up possession to allow the Stags to clear their lines.

Imperial did score another pushover try, which was converted to close the gap to 17-12, but for the remainder of the half Burnham did what they could in the scrums and stood firm in the loose, to secure victory.

Burnham captain Ross McKechan said: “It was a dogged performance.

“We set the tone early on and pulled away, scoring two tries.

“In the second half, we were put under a lot of pressure and the defence really had to work hard, but we managed to grind it out.

“It was another important four points for us and great to progress to the next round of the cup, too.”

After two hard-fought games in the last couple of weeks, Burnham have another this coming Saturday, as they host current league leaders Minehead (ko 3pm).