UNDERBANK Rangers kept up their 100 per cent record in the Cooperative Conference National with a 30-26 home win over Featherstone Lions.
And the victory was a landmark for Rangers who set a club record for consecutive wins as they took their run to 12 matches.
The Lions will be disappointed to only get the bonus point from a game that they controlled for significant periods, especially in the first half.
Featherstone looked like they had the game won when impressive half Kevin Eadie crossed in the 73rd minute and loose forward Scott Glassell added the goal to give them a slender two point advantage, but Underbank’s never-say-die attitude saw prop forward Craig Williams race over with less than two minutes remaining to break the hearts of the visitors.
The Lions had all the early pressure and almost scored from their first set in possession, but they lost the ball in the tackle just yards out.
However, they did open the scoring after a Lee St Hilaire knock-on gifted the visitors field position, and back row forward Ryan Mallinder crashed over after some smart work from front rowers Mark Kear and Dean Gamble.
Featherstone’s Ian Jackson added the goal, but Rangers immediately hit back as Williams made a surging break and the ball was moved swiftly to the left where centre Adam Ryder burst through the defensive line to score despite the attention of three Featherstone defenders – Neil Barrett missed the goal attempt.
The Lions increased their lead after Rangers being penalised for offside.
After a couple of forward drives set up the position, Eadie and Richard Frankland moved the ball with great speed to winger Adam Hepworth who had an easy stroll to the line and Jackson converted.
The game was being played at a furious pace with both sets of forwards putting in some punishing defensive work and it was no surprise that points were hard to come by until Rangers had a purple patch at the end of the first period.
Firstly, after Williams and player-coach Richard Knight had set up the position, Australian Jack Mitchell hit the defenders and spun out the tackle to reach over and score in the 31st minute, and then centre Alex Chatterton beat his marker Jackson to touchdown following kicks ahead by Knight and Courtney Allette.
Underbank dominated the early part of the second half and it was no surprise that the home side raced in for an early score, Sam Dalby bustling his way over from close range. Barrett converted and Rangers led by eight points.
However, Rangers’ Chatterton misjudged the kick-off and handed possession to the Lions allowing Eadie to race over in the corner for the first of his brace.
Frankland couldn’t convert from the touchline and failed again shortly afterwards in the blustery conditions following winger Sam Wilson’s score in the corner.
There was very little between the sides in terms of effort and skill, and nothing between them on the scoreboard as the game entered the final quarter all tied up at 20 points apiece.
The Lions discipline then started to wane and Barrett kicked a penalty conceded by the Lions for dissent to the referee while the visitors were in possession.
That indiscretion was doubly punished as the kick-off restart sailed out of play on the full and Barrett kicked a second penalty goal, this time from halfway.
However, the Lions were not beaten yet as another superb piece of individual play from Eadie saw him cross for his second try with seven minutes remaining.
Rangers’ Barrett then missed a penalty shot to level the scores with three minutes left on the clock and all in the ground thought that the unbeaten record had gone for Underbank, but their ‘play to the final whistle’ approach ensured the record remained intact with Williams stunning touchdown as the match ended in dramatic fashion.
Underbank Rangers: Midgley; Allette, Chatterton, Ryder, Aka; Knight, Barrett; Williams, Carroll, Dalby, Housley, Horsfall, St Hilaire. Interchange: Berry (not used), Mitchell, Horn, Cummings.
Featherstone Lions: Jackson; Wilson, D Glassell, Land, Hepworth; Frankland, Eadie; Kear, Gamble, Emblem, Firth, Mallinder, S Glassell. Interchange (all used): Davies, Burns, Candlin, Milton.
Referee: Michael Mannifield
Cooperative Conference National results: Bramley Buffaloes 14 Warrington Wizards 28, Dewsbury Celtic 22 Valley Cougars 28, Underbank Rangers 30 Featherstone Lions 26, Kippax Knights 82 Coventry Bears 16, Hemel Stags 36 Nottingham Outlaws 12