Shaw Cross Sharks got their NCL Division Two campaign off to a perfect start with a 24-20 win over Clock Face Miners.
The first half was a close-fought affair with a late try seeing the visitors narrowly in front, but a brilliant period early in the second half helped them on their way to an opening-day win.
It was Clock Face who scored first in the match though, gaining good position after a testing high bomb was dropped and taking advantage with a good move finished in the corner by Luke Leyden for the first of his three tries.
The Sharks were getting into good positions but couldn’t find a way through until the 26th minute, when Owen Lumb made a great break through the line and the impressive Andrew Tillotson was in support to score. Shaun Squires converted to make it 6-6.
They kept up the pressure and should have been over when Matthew West did so well to get round the defender but just couldn’t over the line. They made it seconds later though, as the ball went left and Elliott Richardson played a brilliant pass over for Thomas Stuckey to touch down.
Shaw Cross deserved a half-time lead but it wasn’t to be as Karle Hunt went over on the right in the final seconds, with Ian Webster converting to edge them in front 12-10 at the break.
A rousing half-time speech from new boss Mark Barlow did the trick though, and the Sharks scored twice in the first eight minutes of the second half.
The first came after a great offload from Richardson allowed Callum Barker and Stuckey to carry upfield. The ball then went right and Squires' long pass found Joe Halloran to run into the corner.
Leyden was then sent to the sin bin for a trip, and the 12-man defence was beaten by great work from Lumb to shrug off his man to run in for the try. Both were converted by Squires for a 22-12 lead.
Shaw Cross were well in control but couldn’t find another try, and Clock Face made things nervy when a good passing move to the right edge was finished again by Leyden to narrow the gap to six.
That went back up to a two-score advantage when the Sharks were awarded a penalty in front of the posts and Squires sent the kick over.
It was clear this would have to be an 80-minute performance though, and they were kept on their toes in the final moments after Leyden completed his hat-trick following an inventive offload from Shaun Costello.
That put the gap at four, but the Sharks hung on gamely for an important opening-day triumph.
Updated 17:44 - 2 Mar 2019 by Stephen Ibbetson