A LONG-DISTANCE drop goal from stand-off Chris Johnson sealed a last-minute 16-15 victory for Huddersfield at Birkenhead Park and maintained their 100% start to the new North I season.
Despite only scoring one try to Birkenhead’s three, and being dominated for long periods by a big home pack, Mark Sowerby’s side stuck to their task well and were rewarded with two more league points, although the coach and director of rugby admitted they were let off the hook as Johnson’s late kick stunned Birkenhead.
Having seen their opponents open up a 10-0 lead, Huddersfield clawed their way back into the match when a break from George Hinchliff was carried on by the threequarters, and a Johnson kick through sat up nicely for flanker Mark Whitehead to re-gather and dive over the line.
Johnson added the extras and then tacked on a late first-half penalty to level 10-10 at the interval.
Birkenhead scored early in the second half as their pack pushed Huddersfield back onto their own line, but their out-of-form kicker, who had failed to convert either of the first- half tries and missed two penalties, was again off the mark, leaving the Merseyside club just five points ahead.
With 10 minutes to go, another Johnson penalty left the visitors trailing by just two points, and almost on the final whistle, the influential fly-half launched a long-range drop goal which sailed between the uprights for what at one stage had seemed an unlikely victory.
“It was a great win, in what was a really tough encounter,” said Sowerby, after his team had made it two wins out of two.
“I don’t envisasge many teams going to Birkenhead and coming away with anything this season. They have a big set of forwards, having recruited strongly from Waterloo during the summer and they are certainly a much improved side from last season.
“We turned the ball over a few times, and they dragged us into a forwards battle, and considering they scored three tries to our one, I’ve got to consider we were a bit fortunate to come away with the win.
“But we dogged it out and never gave in, and when Johnno struck the final kick in the dying seconds, from between 40 and 45 yards out, it just sailed over as sweet as a nut, which was a real sickener for them, but a great result for us.
“The match was certainly much harder than the previous week’s win over Sheffield Tigers, and will be more representative of what we can expect to encounter this season in North I.”