Shropshire kept alive their hopes of reaching this season’s Three Counties Championship final with a nail-biting 15-12 over defending champions Worcestershire & Herefordshire at Shrewsbury.
Two tries in as many minutes from Newport’s Dave Hartshorne and his centre partner Luca Owens (Whitchurch) proved decisive but the win was based on Shropshire’s tenacious defence in the third quarter.
Worcestershire & Herefordshire, seeking a fourth successive title, battered away at the Shropshire line and managed to get Bromsgrove centre Bryn Williams over for a converted try.
But Shropshire frustrated the champions on numerous other occasions and they made the most of their own attacking opportunities when they managed to lift the siege.
Hartshorne crossed from close range after a period of sustained pressure and Owens then powered away to finish a superb attack which started on Shropshire’s 22.
Both teams played a full part in an entertaining contest which ebbed and flowed throughout.
Shropshire took the lead when hooker James Yeomans (Bridgnorth) went over for a well-worked try after 10 minutes before W&H levelled when Evesham wing Josh Sands went over on 26 minutes.
Sands thought he had scored again when he followed up a crossfield kick but the try was ruled out for a knock-on.
Williams’ try midway through the second half, was converted by Evesham fly-half Tomos Williams but W&H were left to regret handling errors close to the line and a decision to kick for touch rathe than goal when they were awarded a 78th minute penalty.
They won the lineout but were penalised for accidental off-side in the driving maul and Shropshire held out for the win.
The result means that Shropshire now need Greater Birmingham, who beat them in the tournament opener last month, to do them a favour by beating W&H in the final group match at Stourbridge on February 20.
The top two teams in the group will contest the final at Telford Hornets on March 13.