Never-say-die Ilkeston were counting their lucky stars after grabbing a dramatic last-minute victory against Huntingdon and District in the Midlands 1 East division of the National League.
With barely seconds left on the clock, injury-hit Elks trailed 16-12 -- and deservedly so after the visitors, who sat just above them in the table, had enjoyed long periods of pressure against them.
But as they chased the game, they suddenly saw some ball in the Huntingdon 22. Man-of-the-match Jake Lamb attacked and chipped over to the right-hand side where Richard Synott gathered the sublime kick and forced his way over the line for a try that pulled an unlikely 17-16 win out of the bag.
The result was harsh on the visitors, who had dominated much of the game. But given that they had been disrupted by knocks, including a nasty hand-injury that forced Matt McGuire off early on, and positional changes, Elks can be well pleased with the character they showed. It lifted them to fifth place and should certainly give them heart for this Saturday’s trip to mid-table Wellingborough.
On a wet and windy day, Elks started the match with the breeze and slope in their favour. But Huntingdon made all the early running and were soon camped in the home side’s 22, crashing over for a try in the 11th minute.
With Lamb at the heart of most attacks and the scrum performing well, Ilkeston fought back to level the scores 13 minutes later. And after good work by Steve Quinn, they surged into a 12-5 lead by the 35th minute as the referee awarded a penalty try and Lamb converted the extras.
The hosts failed to maintain such momentum, though, and Huntingdon replied with a driving maul that led to a try which reduced the deficit to only two points by the half-time break.
It was just the tonic the visitors needed with the slope and wind in their favour in the second period, and as Elks struggled to clear their lines, Huntingdon bossed territory and possession.
A 54th minute penalty gave them a 13-12 lead before the home side were hit with more injury blows as Simon Bennett, Dan Hyams and Quinn all had to leave the field.
Desperate defending kept Huntingdon at bay until the pressure finally told and a further penalty extended the visitors’ advantage.
That looked sure to be it until Elks decided to throw caution to the wind (literally!) and somehow turned the match around in what can only be described as a great escape.