The big derby match at King George V Playing Fields went right down to the wire with Old Techs just edging out rivals OPMs 15-14.
Techs had to survive having two players sin-binned in the second half and having to defend their try line for 13 minutes of injury-time as they were penalised time after time by the referee, but they somehow managed to hang on and claim the four points to move up to sixth.
Try scoring chances were few and far between in the first period. OPMs had a lot of early territory but never really got close to a try. However, after missing one early kick, Sammie Matts did put over two penalties to edge OPMs 6-0 up.
Techs, who had been frustrated to lose 19-13 to OPMs at the start of the season, reduced the gap with a Billy Evans penalty on 27 minutes.
They got more into the game after that, but in first half injury-time OPMs increased their lead to 9-3 with another Matts penalty.
Techs were a lot better in the second half and they reduced the gap to one point on 50 minutes when flanker Jack Courtney scored a try on the right after a great break by Evans.
OPMs have struggled to score tries this season – they and bottom side New Cross are the only two clubs not to have a try-scoring bonus point this term – but they did finally manage one in the 54th minute on Saturday when Matts went over in the right corner following a scrum.
Trailing 14-8 it didn’t look good for Techs when they had the influential Evans sin-binned on 59 minutes. The visitors were aggrieved by the decision, but it seemed to inspire them and they scored a great try two minutes through Matt Simmonds. With Evans off the field, full-back Dan Bartlett was handed the kicking tee and he crucially added the conversion to edge Techs one point ahead.
But just when they thought they were going to get back to 15 men they had Tony Luxton sin-binned.
Techs, however, did not look in any real danger until the game went into injury-time. The visitors got penalised with the ball near halfway and OPMs kicked for the corner and then spent 13 minutes on Techs’ line. OPMs were awarded penalty after penalty. They tried a host of tap penalties before opting for a five-metre scrum. That was re-set a number of times before the hosts tried down the blindside only to eventually knock-on and finally end game.
“It was a tough win,” said Techs coach Jerry Josee. “We had 10 minutes over-time in the first half and 17 minutes in the second. The referee said to me one minute and 11 minutes later we were still playing.
“It was nip-and-tuck all the way. When we got good possession and ran from depth we got behind them and that was the difference really.”
Josee was pleased with the character his side showed to hang on at the end when everything was going against them.
“They are a strong willed bunch of guys and they will dig deep and fight for each other until the last whistle,” he said.
“We were lucky not to get a try against us at the end, but we defended well and forced them back on the last scrummage to turn the ball over.”
OPMs captain Billy Garratt said: “It is disappointing. I would be interested to know how many penalties were given in the red zone and why another card was not given because it was penalty after penalty after penalty. But it is the ref’s decision at the end of the day and you have to go with it.
“But I can’t fault anyone. I feel it was my error at the end of the game that screwed it up for us. But everyone from one to 20 played really well.
“We are disappointed. We’ve got Tamar Saracens next and we will build at training and focus on our game-plan and go from there. Hopefully, next week is a better result than this.”