Roberts secures Chard a priceless victory with last-gasp kick
- Credit: Archant
Chard gave themselves a great opportunity of avoiding relegation from the Tribute Western Counties (West) after a superb home contest with title-chasing St Austell that was decided in favour of Chard, 25-24, with the last kick of the game, writes Glyn Hughes.
Chard had gone into the game having played with great spirit seven days before at table-topping Sidmouth to underline the fact that they are certainly not going to give anything less than 100 per cent against anyone at this level.
Chard started the game very strongly and took an early lead when prop forward Dave Biss drove through to score a try that was then converted by Niall Crouch.
When Chard conceded the first of what would be nine penalties, the Cornish side instead chose to kick for the corner, but the move came to nothing.
However, minutes later, St Austell did cross the whitewash with Charlie Nicholson credited with the try, but full-back Cavan Boyer narrowly missed the conversion and Chard held a 7-5 lead.
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The home side, playing with real positivity, held the upper hand for the next 20 minutes or so and Crouch increased their lead with a well struck penalty.
Shortly afterwards, the Chard pack who were playing really strongly despite being without several regulars, created an opportunity for Max Gosden to break through and score a try which was again converted by Crouch and suddenly Chard held a 17-5 lead.
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St Austell are not one of the top teams in the league without good reason and they rallied well, setting up a try for Boyer that was not converted, but it did trim the lead to one of 17-10.
The Chard forwards were still dominant with the Mainwaring brothers of Joe and Benn, together with Warren Lewis, all making significant contributions.
When the home side won a five-metre scrum, the ball and the ball came out to full back Charlie Roberts who scored the third Chard try.
The conversion was missed and, despite having skipper Ryan Helliar sin binned just before the break for a deliberate infringement, Chard held on to take a 22-10 lead into the break.
Down to 14 men for the first ten minutes of the second half, Chard were caught cold almost immediately as St Austell fly-half Chris Ashwin made the most of an opportunity presented to him to score a try and Boyer slotted the conversion to reduce the Chard lead to one of just five points at 22-17.
No more damage was done before Chard were back to their full quota of players, but they looked as it they had shot themselves in the foot when Jason Wright, who had been playing superbly, committed an offence right in front of the referee, who had no hesitation in awarding a penalty.
This was kicked deep into the corner and, although Chard defended as if their lives depended on it, they were unable to prevent St Austell scoring again when Andy Inch drove over following some terrific work from his forwards. Boyer slotted another conversion and the Cornish side held the lead for the first time at 24-22.
Chard were under a lot of pressure at this point, but their defensive play was outstanding and with seconds to go forced their way up the pitch and gained a penalty from about 35-metres out.
With Crouch having left the field earlier, Roberts took on the responsibility of taking the kick .
The home supporters could hardly bear to look but Roberts was coolness personified and calmly slotted the penalty to give Chard a vital win and which on the balance of play they probably deserved.
This was certainly a wonderful game for the neutral fans - if there were any - and a huge boost for Chard, who have managed to move out of the bottom two with this win, though they will know they still have much work to do in their remaining league games.
There is no game scheduled for this coming Saturday (March 16), but the club house will be open for anyone to come along and watch the televised Six Nations matches.
Chard return to lead action with a visit to Tiverton on Saturday, March 23.
Chard team: Roberts, Crouch, Brooks, Riley, Szydelko, Sam Mouland, Colenso, Biss, Joe Mainwaring,
Benn Mainwaring, Lewis, Gosden, Wright , Hendy, Helliar.
Replacements (all used) Johnson, Stead and Moss.