There was late drama as Gosport & Fareham forced a penalty-try to edge past London Cornish 20-17 in their London one south clash at Gosport Park.
With time running out, the home side’s unbeaten record was on the line with Cornish desperately defending their line.
Cornish had two players yellow carded in a frantic finish.
But the Gosport pressure finally paid off with the referee awarding the league leaders a penalty try.
Loz Wadham added the conversion with the last kick of the game and home coach Scott Ashley breathed a huge sigh of relief.
‘We deserved to win but that was too close for comfort,’ said Ashley.
‘It wasn’t pretty, we didn’t play our best rugby and at times we panicked.
‘We managed to grind out a result and at this time of year you sometimes have to do that.
‘Both teams, though, were frustrated by the inconsistency of the official which didn’t help.
‘London Cornish arrived with a clever strategy and pushed us all the way in every area.
‘They are an underestimated, big, physically strong side and we made the mistake of trying to match them in that game.’
The home side couldn’t have wished for a better start, scoring a converted try inside the first five minutes.
Blind-side wing forward Dom Porter crossed after a sustained attack with Wadham converting.
The visitors hit back with a try of their own but Gosport remained in charge with two Wadham penalties.
Again Cornish showed their resilience pulling back to within a point, 13-12, at the break with a contentious try.
The touch-judge ruled the scorer had put a foot in touch only to be overruled by the referee.
When Cornish struck again after the break to lead 17-13 for the first time this season Ashley’s team started to show some fallibility.
The game erupted into unpleasant violence following a Cornish high-tackle and in the mayhem a visiting official was red carded and sent from the touchline.
When order was resumed the home side continued to push but a series of careless mistakes robbed them of their best chances.
‘It just wasn’t happening for us and our handling was not as good as it should have been,’ said Ashley.
‘We allowed ourselves to become frustrated but just recovered to haul ourselves over the finish line at the end.
‘All our players know that they have been in a game, having to work for 80 minutes to get the win.
‘It was a tough welcome to the new year and reminded us there are still some big tests ahead.
‘Our lead at the top has been cut to three points and we have a lot of work still to do.
‘We will need to concentrate. There are plenty of banana skins ahead of us and it will be all about keeping our consistency.’