UNDERBANK Rangers produced a battling performance before suffering a narrow 28-24 defeat to top Conference National club Bramley Buffaloes at The Cross.
Boosted by a number of players who have now completed their winter league commitments, Rangers were always in the hunt and could count themselves desperately unlucky that they didn’t emerge victorious.
In fact, they had the consolation of outscoring their highly-rated visitors by five tries to four to underline their strong contribution from start to finish.
And they could count themselves unlucky that they didn’t register more tries, with Tom Senior unfortunate to have an early effort disallowed for a forward pass following a good break from Lee St Hilaire.
The Buffaloes took full advantage of their escape by taking the lead with a Tony Williams try, with Shaun Flynn adding the first of his six conversions, before they had Paul Drake sin-binned for dissent.
On the back of that, Rangers opened their account when Matt Lodge crashed over from a smart Birt pass and then took the lead when great work from Darren Hawkyard, Jason Southwell, Senior and Scott Wilkinson created the opening for St Hilaire to score in the corner.
By half-time, however, Bramley had nudged 12-8 ahead thanks to a Dave Walker second converted try.
That lead was extended at the start of the second half with two Flynn penalties to increase the pressure on their hosts.
But they responded magnificently as Senior crashed over to reduce the deficit and then Southwell put his side in front after racing on to a superb short Brook York pass to finish off from 20m.
Unfortunately, Underbank were unable to field the kick off and, from the subsequent set, Williams again side-stepped his way over.
To make matters worse for the home side, Birt was then sin-binned for interference with six minutes remaining and John Richardson almost immediately crossed for a decisive score.
Underbank did set up a dramatic final few moments when Hawkyard fed Southwell for his second, converted by Ben Littlewood, but it came a fraction too late.