Hartlepool Rovers came from behind to win Saturday’s match at Gateshead with a stoppage-time try.
The Friarage faithful will view that last-play-of-the-game success as part repayment for the two added time defeats at the hands of Middlesbrough and Horden and Peterlee earlier in the season.
The Whites started the match well but then trailed 15-0 before a much better second period saw them claw their way back to 15-14 before Andrew Dring’s second try of the afternoon saw the four points leave Eastwood Gardens with the visitors.
The early-season results had been based on some tremendous skill, passion and teamwork but which had fallen away a little in the last two weeks in the defeats to Stockton and Barnard Castle.
Those attributes resurfaced on Tyneside with the pack especially putting in a good shift in conditions which switched between calm and sunshine to windy and wet.
With the five clubs-including Gateshead-above Rovers in the Durham Northumberland One table at kick-off all losing, Saturday’s victory lifts Rovers back up to fourth place but it’s still incredibly tight with three points covering Rovers down to Hartlepool in ninth spot.
Saturday’s match saw the return to action of Steven Barnfield after fourteen months out and the utility back enjoyed a few decent runs from outside centre before he was forced off with a dead leg.
Skipper Ian Pinchen returned from honeymoon to lead the side from the front with Callum Whitehead, Liam Wood, Andrew Flounders and Dring all carrying the ball well.
For all Rovers enjoyed the bulk of territory and possession in the opening quarter, they suffered from their old failing of being unable to convert pressure into points.
Gateshead were living off scraps and Rovers’ mistakes but a rare visit to the away 22 brought them a try on 20 minutes.
Scott Cartner had gone wide from 24 metres after 12 minutes but the full back was on target to convert Alex Surrey’s try, the openside running a great line to take David Tate’s inside pass and slice through the cover to cross.
Rovers then pulled off two turnovers in quick succession on their own line to keep Gateshead at bay as the hosts started to impose themselves on the game, Surrey proving to be a handful with the ball in hand.
A score was looking on the cards every time Tate had the ball and the veteran centre slipped a tackle in the closing stages of the first half to bring Tom Skidmore into play and the winger stole in from 34 metres.
Mr Mackinder somehow found another three minutes of extra time and when the restart failed to go 10 metres Gateshead used the possession to head upfield where Cartner’s 34-metre penalty struck the left hand upright.
Cartner made no mistake from 26 metres seven minutes after the break and Rovers had it all to do being 15-0 down.
Taz Pelser came on for Matty Stevenson and he immediately got his forwards moving taking play from the home 10 metre line into the 22.
The Friaragemen were starting to dominate in the loose and the pack were twice denied from five-metre scrums before Dring made it third time lucky on the hour mark, Daz Fawcett adding the extra points and Rovers were back in it at 15-7.
Rovers had stepped up several gears and Pelser was hauled down three metres out.
The White Shirts continued to dominate the home side who could not contain drives by Whitehead and Joe Little with Fawcett forcing his way over and converting to make it 15-14 with 10 minutes to play.
The pack were on top and they poured over the tryline after 78 minutes but Jonny Cushlow spilled the ball when trying to ground it and it looked game-over for Rovers.
It wasn’t, however, and a penalty for blocking brought one last drive for the line and, after several near-misses, Dring touched down.
Fawcett’s conversion went wide but it didn’t matter, Rovers had won 19-15.
Assistant coach Darren Smith was an understandably happy man, saying, “I thought all the pack did well and the tactics right at the end were spot on.
“The tap and go was the call and we mauled to the line getting the winning score.
“When we went 12-0 and then 15-0 down we showed great determination and composure to hit back and I can’t fault the effort and commitment.
“Taz (Pelser) came on and did well and it was good to have Barney (Steven Barnfield) back; hopefully his leg will be okay.
“Training last week was much, much better with greater intensity and we now need to keep it up.”
Gateshead: Cartner, Rawlinson, Tate, Heelbeck (c), Skidmore, Foster, Archbald, Woodhall, Bentham, Moslemi, Shand, Atkinson, Holland, Surrey, Ingham. Subs used: J Thandi, Barron, Riley
Tries: Surrey 20; Skidmore 40+1; conversions: Cartner 20; penalty: Cartner 47
Penalties awarded 9, kicked 1, missed 2; scrums won 11; lineouts won 12
Rovers: Harrison, Coulson, S Barnfield, Grand, A Smith, Fawcett, Stevenson, Pinchen (c), Cushlow, Wise, J Little, Whitehead, A Flounders, Wood, Dring. Subs used: Ryan, Pelser. Sub (not used) D Smith
Tries: Dring 61, 80+2; Fawcett 70; conversions: Fawcett 61, 70
Penalties awarded 9, kicked 0, missed 0; scrums won 7, 1 against the head; lineouts won 10
Referee: Alex Mackinder (Durham)
Sent off: none; sin bin: none
Other results: Barnard Castle 32 Horden and Peterlee 10; Gosforth 17 Middlesbrough 12; Hartlepool 5 Medicals 25; Ryton 13 Novocastrians 20; South Shields Westoe 24 Consett 13; Stockton 19 Northern 30