Verulamians produced a dogged performance to steal a bonus-point 22-19 win at Hackney at the death.
Three early unanswered tries from winger Andy Paton, James Youngs and lock Ross Graham gave the visitors a commanding lead. But the Vees then spent the majority of the game deep in their own territory and without the ball as Hackney fought their way back into the game.
Yet the Vees defied the odds as they scored in the final few minutes of the match with a devastating maul that snatched the win from the hosts. Some intelligent early kicking from fly-half Tom Crowne and full-back Alex Ricci established some good field position for the visitors.
This early pressure allowed Youngs to dart clear, but he was dragged down and turned over metres from the line.
The resulting clearance kick was poor and the ball was quickly moved in field to the onrushing Paton. The winger skipped past the first two tackles and pinned his ears back to score close to the posts. Crowne added the extras to give the Vees an early lead.
It was not long before Verulamians added their second try. When several forwards had made inroads in to the Hackney defence with some tackle busting runs Crowne showed great vision to spot the Hackney winger out of position.
The fly-half put in a perfectly weighted chip into the corner. With the full-back hesitating a determined Youngs raced passed and brushed his opposite number to one side to pounce on the bouncing ball to score.
Crowne missed the conversion but the Vees looked to be taking control of the game against a Hackney side who had sat on top of the Herts Middlesex One league for much of the season. The lead was extended within minutes as Graham smashed his way over to score. The try extended Verulamians’ lead to 17 points after the opening 15 minutes.
Some poor decision making from the Vees resulted in errors that allowed Hackney to gain a foothold in the game.
The home side capitalised on this and managed to score a converted try from a quick tap penalty close to the line but only after they had been frustrated by a long period of aggressive defensive work from the Vees. More pressure from the hosts resulted in a second try which brought them within five points of their opponents at the break.
The second half continued as the first had finished with sustained possession and territory for Hackney. Hackney did cross the line but were met by the dogged commitment of several Vees players who put their bodies on the line to prevent a try. Despite the heroic defence the Vees struggled to gain possession and were kept pinned down in their own half for much of the rest of the game.
The pressure continued to mount but defensive efforts from hooker James Hayes, flanker Sam Townsend and centre Gareth Waters kept the home side at bay.
However, the work and toil in the tackle took its toll and Hackney finally took the lead with another converted score from a well-worked driving maul at the lineout. With ten minutes remaining the scores stood at 19-17 in Hackney’s favour.
Crowne put a well-placed kick into the corner to set up the lineout. Verulamians set up the drive and crept forward. With scrum half Tom Backman marshaling his forwards the Vees executed a rolling maul that gathered momentum and surged over the line.
As the visitors celebrated the match winning score captain David Coyle emerged from the pile of bodies as the scorer. The conversion was missed but the Vees kept calm and controlled the closing stages to secure a dramatic last gasp victory.
The bonus-point win made it three victories in a row for the Vees and they will look to take a winning run into the new year as they host Hendon to Cotlandswick at the weekend.