Bonus points but no cigar for Park in the north-east
Rosslyn Park dropped to third in National League One after a 28-22 defeat at fellow title chasers Blaydon.
Moreover, with leaders Ealing Trailfinders beating Cambridge 47-11, Park are now seven points off top sport.
Charlie Broughton bagged two tries, while Hugo Ellis and Nev Edwards also chipped in. A single conversion off Mike Hamilton's boot completed the scoring.
After a poor start, Park were eventually able to leave Blaydon with their heads held high.
The hosts had led by 21-0 and 28-5, but Park mounted a remarkable comeback and it was the Blaydon who were mightily relieved to hear the final whistle.
In fact, while it was 15 men against 15, Park out-scored their hosts by 22-7, but they were undone by conceding 21 points in 10 minutes while a yellow card had reduced them to 14 men.
Park kicked off long but as soon as Blaydon got into the Park half, they were awarded a penalty.
The home pack was the dominant force in the early stages of the match, but their passage was eased to some extent by Park’s inability to understand exactly what the referee was demanding of them.
It seemed as if every time they went into contact the visitors would be penalised, and Blaydon would be able to kick them back into defence.
After five successive penalties against Park, prop Lorne Ward sought to draw the referee’s attention to something and was shown the yellow card, and told that if he wanted to referee he could do it from the touchline. As it happened, it changed the whole complexion of the match.
Blaydon kicked the resulting penalty to the corner and their powerful pack rumbled over on the Park right (where winger Broughton had been withdrawn to allow for a front row replacement).
Prop Matt Hall claimed the try and fly half Andrew Baggett converted for 7-0.
Park tried to take the game to Blaydon, but when they lost the ball in contact the home side launched a devastating counter-attack for flanker Mike Hamilton to finish off a great move that he had started, Baggett converting for 14-0.
Back on the attack, Blaydon put pressure on and drove over for number eight Ben Morris to score while Park were frustratingly being prevented from reversing the safety substitution, Ward’s 10 minutes in the bin having already lapsed. Baggett converted for 21-0.
Skipper Ellis made clear to his beleaguered troops that he was not entirely impressed with their efforts so far.
Park put together their best attack thus far, switching the ball from wing to wing. They were rewarded with a penalty in front of the posts. Ed Lewis-Pratt kicked to the corner and Park managed to shove the formidable home pack backwards for Ellis to score in the corner for 21-5.
The second half began as a dour struggle - Park were now competing on at least equal terms, looking more dangerous in the backs and enjoying sufficient dominance at the line-out to negate Blaydon’s kicks to touch. There was a feeling that the cause was far from lost if they could grab the next score.
Those hopes were dashed when it was Blaydon who broke the deadlock with a superbly constructed try, started in their own half, with a sprint down their left wing before full back Nathan Bailey took it on and managed to get round behind the posts leaving Baggett the simplest of conversions for 28-5 on 68 minutes.
Park responded almost immediately, a good long pass by Steve Hamilton – having a very sound first outing at fly half – sped the ball to Edwards, who burst up the left to score in the corner. Hamilton nailed a very difficult conversion for 28-12.
Tails up, only a minute later Park were in again, another superb attack caught Blaydon looking tired and Broughton touched down to give a glimmer of hope at 28-17.
Park returned to the attack and scored a great try, started with another good sprint up the left by Edwards, taken on by Harry Rowland and Hamilton for Broughton to go over on the right for 28-22.
The try gave Park a four-try bonus point, and a bonus point for getting within seven points.
But with five minutes left, Park were now more interested in going for the converted try that would have produced a sensational win – unfortunately it was not to be.