Tonbridge Juddians put on a show for their supporters at The Slade against fellow strugglers Leeds Tykes on Saturday.
Despite TJs' fate already being sealed at the bottom of National League 1, they ran out 29-27 winners in a dramatic finale against a Leeds side who needed to win to keep their survival hopes alive.
The away side started the stronger, making the most of an early mistake from TJs and piling on the pressure at the line-out.
A couple of penalties and a strong driving maul later saw the away side dot down for the first try of the game. However, TJs hit straight back with a try of their own through Joe Duffy as the home side showed they could create havoc at the maul as well.
Ryan Taylor-Dennehy converted the try from the touchline and suddenly TJs had retaken the lead. This spurred the home side on and they continued to dominate territory as well as possession in the first half.
TJs consistently looked to use the maul as a weapon and got great joy out of it. Eventually resulting in another goalline stand where Leeds looked to cling on. TJs stayed patient and worked it wide to Kyle McGhie who dotted down for his first try in a TJs shirt in the corner.
The home side would not stop there as they looked to put the game to bed before half-time. Ryan Jackson made a searing break up the middle to see his side into the 22. TJs worked well to hold onto possession under a lot of pressure from an always tenacious Leeds defence.
However, the away side could do nothing stop the onrushing waves of attack. Eventually it would be centre, Duncan Tout, who finished the move off under the posts. On the half-time whistle Taylor-Dennehy slotted the conversion to make the score 21-5.
It would be a long way back for Leeds but with the wind at their backs they began to make inroads into the TJs defence. The home side’s defence held firm for a time but could not stop a resurgent Leeds side from scoring shortly after the break and cutting the deficit to 11 points. The conversion seemed a simple enough one but brilliant tenacity from Hugo Watson saw it charged down, preventing what would turn out to be a crucial two points.
Leeds then came again as TJs infringed in the middle of the park, allowing the away side field position. Under strain from some quick phases from the away side, TJs left their blindside unguarded allowing for some great Tykes play to recognise the space and dot down for their third try. However, another missed conversion meant that TJs still held a 21-15 lead.
The home side were then able to turn the momentum, albeit briefly. McGhie showed sensational footwork to break from his own 22 and surge upfield thanks to great link-up play with Tom Chapman.
TJs kept the pressure on inside the Leeds 22 and this time it was Leeds who left their blindside free for Taylor-Dennehy to slide over in the left hand corner. However, this time he could not convert his own kicking so the score remained at 26-15.
Leeds were not going to die wondering, however, and hit straight back as TJs failed to exit from the kick-off. A few phases later and they were over thanks to some strong forward play around the fringes. The kick was good and suddenly it was a four-point game.
The away side now had their tails up and quickly worked their way back into the TJs 22. The home side defended admirably on their own goal line once again but the clinical edge of this Leeds side proved too much and they scored in the corner to give them a one-point lead after a missed conversion.
With the clock in the red, the game seemed all but up for TJs. However, pressure from the kick-off won the home side the penalty and with it the chance to steal the game at the death. Up stepped Taylor-Dennehy from 40m out on the angle. Into the wind this was not going to be a simple kick, but he struck it perfectly and dissected the uprights to send The Slade wild.
A deserved win all truth being told for the home side but one they had to seriously battle for. Although the points may not mean a tremendous amount in the final standings, it was a key step for this side as they look to build for next season in a bid to be back in National 1 in 12 months time.