SLAITHWAITE Saracens remain firmly on course for the Pennine League Second Division title with a hard-fought 18-8 victory over Huddersfield rivals and fellow promotion-chasers Newsome Panthers.
From the kick-off, it was obvious referee Phil Huck – the former Fartown hooker – would have his work cut out to keep a lid on the encounter.
In the opening 10 minutes the forwards battled it out to get on top, with some bone-crunching tackles from the start and defences working overtime to snuff out any attacks.
But after 11 minutes full-back Dave Holmes chipped over the defence and regathered to touch down in the corner for Danny Garside to land an excellent touchline conversion.
Unfortunately, two minutes later free-scoring Mick Bostock had to leave the field with a badly-gashed knee which required 15 stitches and the Saracens lost a bit of momentum.
Garside then found himself in the sin bin and the Panthers immediately took full advantage as good forward work led by Newsome man-of-the-match Luke Roberts paved the way for Damien Kenchington to power over for a try converted by Ross Studholme to make it 6-6 at the break.
The Panthers started the second half strongly and soon nudged two points ahead with a Studholme penalty as Slaithwaite continued to be given their toughest test of the season.
But in the final quarter the Saracens began to take control, with a Lee McAfferty try and Garside conversion putting his side back in the lead.
And with five minutes remaining Darren Hawkyard spotted a gap and went over by the posts for Garside to again add the extras and secured victory in what proved to be an epic encounter.