A STUNNING Late fightback failed to spare Underbank Rangers from defeat 32-20 at Featherstone Lions in the National Conference.
The Lions were in command leading 32-14 on the hour, but were holding on at the end after a Lee St Hilaire inspired comeback by the Rangers.
Rangers could have won the game, but they ran out time as they hammered the Lions’ try line in the final minutes of a pulsating clash.
Winger Richard Aka had the first chance with five minutes gone on the clock, having a try chalked off early on for a forward pass.
However, the Lions responded as Paul Watson raced in to open the scoring following a fine 30 metre break.
Winger Mick Jedynak’s excellent solo run set the position for Stu Davies to double the home side’s lead when he went in out wide.
Featherstone were well on top with Mark Kear and the influential Aide Mullachy controlling matters.
With Tom Antony, St Hilaire and Nathan Williams starting to get the visitors back in contention, it was no surprise when they replied with Aka’s first try.
Impressive debutant Adam Ryder swept up a loose pass ten metres from his own line and he released Aka on a mazy 90 metres sprint to the line.
Antony missed the conversion as he did eight minutes later, after crisp handling among the Rangers backs saw Ryder send in Aka with a beautiful pass to level the scores.
However, a minute before the break, Featherstone hit the front again as Scott Glassell and Mullachy combined to put Jedynak in, Richard Frankland added the goal.
The start of the second half saw loose forward St Hilaire’s excellent break finished off in style by the supporting Aka for a superb try, Anthony levelling with the goal.
The game then seemed to go away from the Rangers when Mullachy again found Jedynak and he finished well, and then on 55 minutes a Byron Cooper kick from a scrum eluded Leon Alexis-Bailey and was pounced on by Steve Lawrie who raced over from 20 metres.
Watson’s second try and Frankland’s fourth goal made it 32-14 and the home side were seemingly cruising, but then the Lions spilled possession when attacking and Nathan Williams released Ryder who showed great pace and power to gallop over from 70 metres, and suddenly the momentum changed.
Another St Hiliare break sent Ryder over for his second try on 73 minutes.
The Lions kicked the restart out on the full and paid the penalty, Antony’s superb midfield break sending the trailing Craig Williams to the try line.
Namesake Nathan Williams’ conversion brought Rangers to within two points with two minutes to go. In the final minutes Alexis-Bailey, the hard working Napoleoni Vinaka and St Hilaire all went close, but dogged defence just held them at bay.
RANGERS: N Williams; Aka, J Smith, Ryder, Alexis-Bailey; Berry, Antony; V Smith, Carroll, Vinaka, Sharrock, C Williams, St Hilaire. Interchange: Barrett, Battye, Hawkyard, Valentine.