STOURBRIDGE Lions reached the Midland Vase final for the second year running thanks to a 17-12 semi-final win over Stamford.

The Lions will defend their crown against Old Leamingtonians on March 16 after coming through a tough clash in Lincolnshire.

Delighted skipper Stuart Doolittle described it as the finest performance the Lions have ever produced.

He said: “It’s certainly the best since I’ve been at the club.

“It was the defensive effort which won the game. They were unbeaten coming in but we held them at bay.”

On a sloping pitch, the Lions had an advantage in the first-half, their powerful forwards making inroads into a tough tackling home defence.

After initial pressure from Stamford and a penalty miss, Stour began to exert control at the scrum and on 18 minutes a sweeping move from halfway finished with Tom Dews setting up George Tildesley for a simple score in the corner.

A driving maul led to a second try through Doolittle but the hosts hit back just before the break with a try of their own, cutting the deficit to 10-5.

Stamford used the slope to their advantage early in the second period as they increased the pressure on the Lions line, only to be undone by the try of the game.

Stour broke from their own 22 and after several exchanges James Mitchell crossed to score and the ensuing conversion put the visitors 17-5 up.

The hosts fought back fiercely but couldn’t find a way past the visiting defence until deep into stoppage time, for what proved only a consolation.

Attention will now return to the league, where the Lions find themselves in the thick of the Midland Three West (North) promotion race.

Doolittle added: “We’ve got four league games now before the final and it is unbelievably tight.

“We had a bit of a bad period before Christmas but there is all to play for and we still have hope of doing the double.”