Old Brodleians look 99 per cent certain to playing Yorkshire One rugby again next season after beating visitors Barnsley 22-19 in a dramatic basement battle on Saturday.
The Hipperholme men were typically lacklustre for 50 minutes, raised their game magnificently to turn a 12-3 deficit into a 15-12 lead while playing up the slope, and then looked to have thrown it all away before conjuring up a winning try with one minute left.
Disaster struck four minutes from time when stand off Danny Wood’s attempted clearance from just inside his own 22 was charged down, fullback Phil Town made contact with fresh air as he tried to kick the ball dead and Barnsley’s Craig Jeffels gratefully dropped on the ball for a try converted by his centre partner Andrew Appleyard.
That threw bottom side Barnsley a lifeline with the score 19-15 in their favour, only for Town to make amends from close range as Brods mounted a final, sustained assault.
There was still time for winger Kris Sharples to threaten again for Brods and Barnsley to run the ball back dangerously before referee Brian Mulligan ended matters and several visiting players slumped to the turf, their side’s fate appearing to be sealed.
Barnsley are now certain to finish below Brods, who have two games left, while next-to-bottom Knottingley need a minimum of 17 points out of a possible last 20 to have a chance of overhauling the Woodhead side.
Brods have put their supporters through the wringer on several occasions this season and coach John Cole admitted he thought his men had blown it with their late “own goal” on Saturday.
“It had ‘sickening’ written all over it,” he admitted. “All that hard work for nothing - we were about to get a slap in the face.
“But from the depths of despair the players showed great commitment and a good mindset to rescue the situation.”
Cole had told his players beforehand that it was their “survival game” but after a sloppy start Brods played second fiddle to Barnsley for much of the first half and treated the visitors’ 22 like a minefield not to be stepped into.
In bright sunshine and on a pitch which was bizarrely dusty in the main but boggy in front of the top posts, Brods immediately surrendered the initiative. The ball was allowed to bounce from a Barnsley kick and the visitors seized it, poured forward and sprightly right winger Joe Taylor rounded two flat-footed defenders for an unconverted try wide out.
Wood pulled back three points with a long, straight penalty after Barnsley offended at the breakdown but there was no addition to the scoreline in the remaining 36 minutes of the half.
Barnsley had the vasy majority of the possession in that time, Brods either kicking the ball straight to them, coughing it up in contact or with poor passing.
The visitors twice pressed hard on the home line, getting over it once but being held up.
It took Barnsley only four minutes of the second half to open up a deserved nine-point lead, stand off Michael Haywood doing well to collect a wild pass before beating two defenders on a weaving 40 metre run down the middle for a fine try. Jeffels converted.
Brods’ plight suddenly seemed to hit home and the arrival of talismanic No 8 Luke Scrimshaw from off the bench helped them start to turn the tide.
Back rower Andy Finn set the ball rolling with an unconverted try wide on the right and the balance of power further shifted the home side’s way when Mr Mulligan showed he had brought his cards after all.
After only penalising Barnsley for a punch, a horrendous if accidental throat tackle and then a tip tackle, he yellow carded Hayward for seemingly a lesser example of foul play.
Brods made the extra man tell and hit the front for the first time on 61 minutes when centre Rob Jennings easily brushed off two tacklers to score by the posts, Wood converting.
The home men looked comfortable for most of the final quarter but Wood’s charged down kick changed all that.
It was Barnsley’s turn to shoot themselves in the foot. They failed to secure possession from the restart, conceded a penalty and then 10 metres for dissent. Wood put the ball into touch in the corner and Brods secured the lineout. Following a Brods penalty in front of the posts, Jennings almost made it to the try line but eventually Town did from close range.