Percy Park secure the win with winning try at the death
Although both Percy Park and Wheatley Hills are in the bottom half of North 1 East, a win for the visitors would have helped ease their relegation chances.
And with three minutes remaining it looked as though they had pulled off an unlikely win at Preston Avenue.
But it was the home side who triumphed with a late try to secure the win.
Once again the Park side were reshuffled with no fewer than five changes in the squad.
Jonny Dubois came into the side for the injured Andy Dunn, Rich Berne moved into the centre for the unavailable Guy Pike, Leo Caulfield and Kieran Sutherland filled the wing positions and Toby Davison moved to full-back for the injured Michael Grove.
Jonathan Kidd came back into the front row for Marc Cooke, and the man who has had more come-back’s than Frank Sinatra – veteran prop George Purdy filled the front row replacement spot.
The conditions were wet, which did not help with handling, and the game was officiated once again by Northumberland’s Greg Dawson.
Wheatley Hills are renowned for their strong forward pack, and they earned a penalty try in the 23rd minute as Park’s pack was under pressure as the scrummage collapsed inches short of the try line. The conversion by Owen Gillvray took the visitors into a 7-0 lead.
Park hit back immediately with a penalty from Paul Spowart, and then on the half hour Toby Davison went over in the corner after a sustained period of pressure by the home side. Paul Spowart’s conversion fell just short of the crossbar but Park were now in front 8-7.
Wheatley’s skipper Tom Buckenham was yellow carded for a professional foul just before half-time and Spowart punished Wheatley for their misdemeanour with three points to go into the break 11-7 in front.
Park were on top for the early part of the second half but could not make the numerical advantage count, however, two minutes of indiscipline by both sides saw lock Andrew Penno for the visitors in the bin. Percy Park were then two men down as Ethan Wilson was shown yellow for going off his feet in a ruck and Rich Berne was sin binned for tackling the Wheatley full-back Gillvray in the air.
Gillvray had the chance to keep his side in touch with a penalty. Last week he kicked seven successful penalties to win against West Hartlepool, but on Saturday his effort was short.
Hills then took the lead on 61 minutes with a well-executed try in the left hand corner, but the conversion was off target.
Jimmy Baldwin came on for Davy Kay at scrum-half, and earlier both Park’s other replacements had made an impact with Purdy using all his experience to shore up the Park scrum, and Liam Scott making a major impact carrying the ball in his first game of the season for the first XV.
Park had a chance to edge back in front when awarded a penalty. Spowart stepped up and his kick looked to have scrapped over. The Park touch judge went to raise his flag but the Wheatley linesman kept his flag down and the penalty was disallowed. Had there been the opportunity to go to the TMO, video evidence would have shown that the kick was good.
Instead of Park being in front, Wheatley then stretched their lead with a Gillvray penalty and the scored moved on to 15-11.
Park now needed a try to win the game and threw everything at Hills, who defended strongly.
With three minutes to go and with Park on the attack, Toby Davison was bundled into touch on the Wheatley 22. In the contact he suffered a blow to the head and play was halted with the Park full-back partly in the field of play but immobilised by both physios in case of a neck or spinal injury. Play was then halted for some time as an ambulance was called and the player eventually was taken off the pitch on a stretcher.
When play did restart, Park seemed much more fired up than the visitors and won the Wheatley lineout.
Percy Park maintained pressure in the Hills 22 and a series of scrums were awarded and Park mounted attack after attack with advantage being played for varying penalties as Wheatley did everything in their power to maintain their slender lead.
With Toby Davison off the field, Kay came back on and this proved to be the turning point as it was he who crashed over for the game winning try to the jubilation of the Park side and utter desolation of the visitors and their supporters, who had thought they had done enough to secure four valuable league points.