Luton Vipers fell to their first East of England Division One defeat of the season on Saturday as they lost 48-22 at leaders King’s Lynn Blacks Knights.
The visitors started strongly, playing an expansive brand of rugby that caused the home side problems in the early engagements.
With 10 minutes gone, Vipers struck first, Charlie Bennett dotting down after a well-judged crossfield kick by half back Ieuan-Rhys Beal, Rik Hobbs adding the conversion.
Shortly afterwards, a second try was scored as Beal turned from creator to scorer, dancing his way past four would-be tacklers to extend the lead to 12-0, Hobbs again kicking the extras.
Captain Matt Jones impressed in his traditional home in the centre, and formed a strong partnership with battering ram Callum Strachan, who once again showed his class with a stellar performance.
The Vipers continued to pour on the pressure, and with strong carries from props Adam Yusuf and Trevor Fowler, second row duo Yousef Richards and Will Varnals, the platform was perfect for Beal and Hobbs to direct play.
However, on the half hour, the tide began to turn as Knights seemed to change gear, running harder and were able to get three quick tries before the interval to change ends 18-12 in front.
The second half continued where the first had left off, with King’s Lynn scoring two quick tries to extend their lead, both converted to make it 30-12.
In parts the Vipers returned to their dangerous attacking ways, and it was Strachan who again proved the catalyst with some bulldozing runs.
The ball flowed nicely down the line as it ended in the hands of Dan Hooper, who managed to beat his man and dive over in the corner for his first try in a Vipers shirt, making it 30-16.
Just as it looked like the visitors were in the ascendancy, King’s Lynn used their strong interchange bench to punch holes in a tiring defensive line, and added three further scores.
Vipers continued to attack and never stepped back, as their persistence paid off out wide, Will Bennett dotting down with a great finish.
With Hobbs now on the sidelines, Jones stepped up and slotted the touchline conversion to make it 48-22.
The Vipers played until the final whistle, and nearly managed to add a final score, but a grubber kick just eluded the hands of Hobbs, Beal and Hooper to run over the dead ball line, bringing the game to an end.
Head coach Beal said afterwards: “We were superb for half an hour, playing some excellent rugby league.
“Credit has to go to a superb King’s Lynn side, who deservedly sit at the top of the table. Their completion rate, and work-rate at the breakdown is where we need to be aiming for, but we are still learning, and in parts we are outplaying teams with our speed and power.
“I thought Justin Harkin and Callum Strachan were superb, they provided me as a half back with so many options.
“We now go to Eastern Rhinos in the Vase next weekend and know we need to take that next step into sealing games, and suffocating our opposition of quick ball.”