Old Brodleians’ hopes of a much-needed Yorkshire One victory were raised and then dashed in a dramatic conclusion to yesterday’s home game against Malton and Norton.
The Woodhead men, bottom of the section and beaten in their three previous games, hadn’t looked capable of scoring a try until scrum half Joe Armitage plunged over with four minutes left. Danny Wood’s touchline conversion gave them a 16-13 lead.
However, as if to illustrate Brods’ current vulnerability, visiting winger Sizwe Zondo sped behind the posts without a finger laid on him in added time and fellow South African Zwelakhe Sodladla added the goal to give the fourth-placed visitors a 20-16 win.
Malton and Norton deserved their success, having held sway in the forwards and twice getting the ball over the home try line without being able to ground it.
But a losing bonus point was still meagre pickings for Brods, who showed far more fight than they had at Hullensians the previous week.
The hosts lacked the muscle, cohesion and individual flair to ask serious questions of the visitors’ defence with the likes of injured backs Sam Deacon and Matty Hoyle confined to watching roles.
Had they been able to gain advanced field positions and mount pressure, superb marksman Wood might well have kicked them to victory.
The fullback struck four from four, starting with a straightforward second-minute penalty after an attempted Malton and Norton clearance had been charged down.
Brods were unable to cash in from a five metre scrum when fullback Sodladla was ruled to have carried the ball back over his own try line before touching it down.
Play then swung to the top end of the field where Brods had to survive intense pressure before their strongest runner, No 8 Rob Jennings, helped ease the pressure.
Wood kicked two penalties in the last 10 minutes of the half, from 35 and 40 metres, but Brods gifted their opponents three points from the boot of Sodladla in between when making a hash of fielding a restart.
Turning round to face the slope 9-3 to the good, Brods conceded 10 points in the first 13 minutes.
Sodladla landed an angled penalty and then added a towering conversion from wide on the right after prop Nick Salisbury had buried his way over.
The visitors must have been confident of going on to win easily but Brods dug deep, aided by good lineout ball from Bob Sykes and skipper Kyle Millward and even a couple of strikes against the head by hooker James Ogden in a retreating scrum.
The home side had an escape when Sodladla’s kick ahead just went dead but it was generally stalemate in midfield.
Referee Gavin Pender warned both captains after a general melee approaching the hour mark. Malton and Norton were lucky to keep 15 on the field shortly after but with time running out visiting No 8 Mark Bradshaw was sin-binned.
Brods kicked the penalty into touch in the corner, Millward won lineout ball and Aussie lock Stirling Ross, who again impressed with his work rate, paved the way for Armitage to touch down just before hitting the flag.
Wood added the extras in superb fashion but Brods were unable to run the clock down in their own half.
After several forwards drives, they were penalised for holding on in the ruck and Zondo caught everyone by surprise by sprinting around a mass of tired, static bodies for the decisive score.