COOL-headed Jon Critchlow held his nerve to slot home a last-gasp penalty to snatch Bromsgrove a dramatic 31-30 victory over Sandbach last Saturday.
Dan Protherough’s side looked to be heading for defeat in Cheshire when full back Benny Elliot landed a penalty just after the interval to give the hosts a 20-8 lead.
Their hopes of mounting a comeback were also dealt a blow when Ben Temlow touched down with 15 minutes to go after Tom Hunt struck for Bromsgrove.
But the visitors, who were trailing 30-21, never gave in and after a penalty try got them within two points and they clinched the win when Critchlow scored with the last kick of the game.
This will be a huge boost for Bromsgrove who suffered a set back before kick off when lock Matt Edgar suffered a hamstring injury in the pre-match warm up.
Despite the late change, which saw skipper Paul Norris return to the starting line, the away side withstood some early pressure before scoring the opening try. After a fluent passing move, Hunt came off his wing to sprint through, dodging his way past three defenders to finish off a superb team try.
Sandbach were quick to respond, though, as a missed tackle in midfield allowed them through before John Smith went over in the corner. Elliot converted from out-wide to give his side a 7-5 lead.
Handling errors were costing Grove possession, while their penalty count continued to increase. Elliot missed his first attempt at goal, but he soon made amends to edge his side further ahead.
The wet conditions made the ball difficult to control, but Bromsgrove appeared to have it under wraps when Sam Bastock burst through. The centre had only one man to beat, with Hunt outside of him, but a loose pass was gathered up by Sam Morris who sprinted 75 metres to score under the posts. Elliot added the extras.
Facing a 17-5 deficit, the game seemed to be stretching away from Bromsgrove, but just before half-time Critchlow struck from the tee.
An exchange of penalties saw Sandbach hold a 20-11 lead, but the Grove were in the match and after a long period of pressure they reduced their arrears further. Hunt took a penalty quickly before wriggling his way across the the try-line, which Critchlow converted.
Elliot landed another three points, but Critchlow cancelled this out moments later as Bromsgrove’s scrum began to dominate.
Sandbach appeared to have delivered the final hammer blow when a slick move saw Temlow cross in the corner, which Elliot converted.
However, with their forwards still on top in the set piece, Bromsgrove were offered a life-line when the referee awarded them a penalty try with only minutes remaining.
Critchlow duly dispatched it and the full back then became the hero as he fired over a penalty at the death after Grove’s forwards put together one last surge up the pitch.