Horden and Peterlee came out on top in Saturday’s derby with Hartlepool Rovers – but only just.
It took a Craig Jones penalty nine minutes into added time to give the hosts the win and the four points puts them into fourth spot in the Durham Northumberland One table, with Rovers in eighth.
There was little to choose between the teams and had the match finished all square there would have been no grounds for complaint and both sides would have been happy.
This was the second time in three games that Rovers have gone down to a late, late penalty having lost 13-10 in similar fashion to Middlesbrough in the campaign’s opener.
Rovers will ruefully reflect on a match where they had the majority of territory and possession only to see H&P take the chances when they were on offer.
For that they chiefly had to be grateful for the strong-running Andrew Docherty, who provided the creative and attacking sparks when it mattered.
The Whites kicked too much ball away, especially in the first period and tended to panic at crucial moments instead of backing themselves by playing one or two more phases.
Horden will head into Saturday’s home clash with Westoe with heightened confidence. Rovers’ tough start continues with a Friarage date against leaders Northern knowing they could, and should, have had three wins and 12 points and not just the six they have pocketed.
The victorious coach Glenn Bowman was in reflective mood afterwards, saying: “When we had possession we looked dangerous but too often we had to chase the game.
“To be honest, I thought we were hard done to in the penalty count which didn’t help.
“In attack, though, we did well and ran some good lines at times but there’s still some work to do.”
On their first visit to Eden Park, Rovers could have gone 3-0 ahead in just the second minute but Daz Fawcett went wide with a 42-metre penalty.
There were then half chances for both teams with Liam Wood’s lineout take seeing Rovers rampage to the Horden line only to be penalised and Ben Turnbull, one on one with Chrissy Harrison, brought back for a forward pass by David Heckles.
Rovers went 7-0 ahead on 10 minutes when David Heckles spilled a Taz Pelser box-kick and the ball fell into Wood’s hands for a simple touchdown, Fawcett kicking the touchline conversion.
Horden pulled five points back three minutes later when Docherty ran deep into the away 22 where David Heckles cross-kicked and Jones judged his run to perfection.
There was a semblance of a high tackle on Wood after 17 minutes but play continued and Horden took a 10-7 lead from the next action.
Opting for a scrum from a penalty on halfway, Luke Watson darted away from the set-piece with play taken on by Carl Brown before Steven Heckles received to cross for an unconverted try.
After an even passage of play, Fawcett went for goal again on 32 minutes with a 40-metre effort but he, again, pushed his kick wide of the uprights.
The stand-off, who had kicked his side to victory against Westoe last time out, tried his luck again seven minutes after the break but once more failed to hit the target.
Horden extended their lead to 17-10 after 55 minutes when they peeled away from an attacking lineout 32 metres out and Docherty burst into the 22 where his centre partner Jack McCallum took his outside pass to cross, Jones adding the extra points.
Sub Callum Whitehead was starting to make ground with the ball but he, Fawcett and Pelser couldn’t find the final effort needed to get over the line and skipper Ian Pinchen was then hit with a bullet-like pass five metres out when a simple ball would have done.
The Friaragemen were shading territory and possession stats but were too often guilty of wasting the ball.
Fawcett failed with a 29-metre penalty on 64 minutes and two minutes later David Grand went under the posts but there had been an earlier knock on.
A rare visit to the away half by Horden actually brought about seven points for the White Shirts, Fawcett breaking clear with Grand running 35 metres into the home 22 and keeping the ball alive for Pelser to take it and stretch for the line.
Fawcett kicked the extras and it was 17-17.
With the 80 minutes up Jones had the opportunity to win the game for the Collierymen but he missed with a front-on penalty from 23 metres out.
The winger had another chance to be the hero three minutes later but, with a clear run to the line, the ball sailed into and out of his hands.
Just when it looked like a draw, Horden launched one last attack, Mr Harrington penalised Rovers at the breakdown and this time Jones made no mistake.
“Well, we just have to keep on building and playing rugby,” said beaten coach Carl Robinson.
“For much of the game we showed them too much respect and didn’t stick to our game plan.
“I thought the forwards played well, we’ve not got the biggest pack around but they stood up well to bigger opponents.
“It’s disappointing to have missed out again right at the death but it’s still early days.”
Horden: D Heckles (c), Jones. McCallum, Docherty, Turnbull, Turner, Watson, Key, Gilmour, James, Malcolm, Bridges, S Heckles, Brown, Turton. Subs used: Hartley, Hudson, Ellis
Tries: Jones 13; S Heckles 20; McCallum 51; conversion: Jones 51; penalty: Jones 80+9
Penalties awarded 7, kicked 1, missed 1; scrums won 8; lineouts won 12
Rovers: Harrison, S Flounders, Gunn, Grand, A Smith, Fawcett, Pelser, Pinchen (c), Cushlow, Wise, J Little, Langley, A Flounders, Wood, O’Callaghan. Subs used: Whitehead, Stephenson, Cookland
Tries: Wood 10; Pelser 75; conversion: Fawcett 10; penalty: Fawcett 49
Penalties awarded 11, kicked 1, missed 2; scrums won 9; lineouts won 11
Referee: Mark Harrington (Durham)
Sent off: none; sin bin: none
Other results: Barnard Castle 41 Gosforth 16; Northern 56 Middlesbrough 18; Novocastrians 31 Medicals 29; Ryton 17 Consett 50; South Shields Westoe 37 Gateshead 41; Stockton 3 Hartlepool 25