National Conference Division One leaders Underbank Rangers had to dig deep for their 26-24 win at struggling Ince Rose Bridge.

The Lancashire side, who are next to bottom in the table, gave Underbank an almighty scare.

The home side probably deserved a share of the spoils after showing great spirit to come back from 26-8 down on the hour, only to come up just short.

Two tries for the hosts in the final five minutes set up a tense finish, but a missed conversion proved the difference as Rangers stayed top on points difference from Hunslet Parkside.

Rangers struggled to contain the determined Ince pack, but two first half touchdowns from forward Craig Williams, two scores for centre Owen Restall and a 15th try of the season from Sam Ansell, plus three conversions, saw the visitors home.

Rangers had right wing Ansell returning after being unavailable the previous week, while Tom England and Jonlee Sanderson returned to the bench after injury.

Andy Boothroyd played in the half backs in place of Joey Eichner, who had been recalled by his parent club Toronto Wolfpack.

Underbank started brightly and had a score on the opening set ruled out for a forward pass as half back Danny Hirst sent Williams through a huge gap.

Rangers continued to dominate, but dogged defence kept them out and on Ince’s first attack Kieron Ecclestone gave the home side the lead on 12 minutes from a penalty.

Underbank replied three minutes later when Williams broke clear of two tacklers for a fine individual try, but Kris Harrop missed the conversion as he struck a post.

Williams increased the lead on 22 minutes as he received a pass from hooker Sam Rochford to crash over, but Harrop pushed his conversion attempt wide.

Ecclestone missed a penalty shot for Ince on the stroke of half-time, but Rangers deserved their 8-2 lead at the interval.

Underbank made a strong start to the second period with a try from Ansell who finished off Mikey Holmes’ groundwork beating four men to reach the line and Hirst added the goal.

Ince cut the lead as full-back Peter Valentine raced over and Ecclestone converted.

Two tries in four minutes just before the hour put Underbank back in charge with centre Restall scored twice following Ansell carries of more than 50 metres.

Crucially Restall converted both of his tries from wide out to give Rangers a comfortable 26-8 lead.

However, Underbank began to concede penalties and give up possession allowing Ecclestone to take control.

First he sent loose forward Chris Boylan through a gap to score on 64 minutes.

Then on 75 minutes Ecclestone sent back row forward Johnny Brown in to touchdown and then Ecclestone grubber kicked through for Brown to grab his second on 77 minutes.

Unfortunately for the home side Ecclestone missed the conversion after Brown’s first try to leave Ince trailing by two points with two minutes left on the clock.

However, they scented a shock victory could be on the cards and Ecclestone tried one more defence splitting pass, but the ball was intercepted by Underbank’s Rochford and one tackle later the final whistle was blown.

Rogers was awarded The Rose & Crown Thurstonland Players’ Player of the Match and the equally impressive Williams was selected as the Bengal Spice Man of the Match – both were pushed hard for the honours by Casey Clark and Boothroyd.

Rangers have a two week break due to the Bank Holiday, but will return to action with a home game versus Hunslet Warriors on Saturday, June 3.