Fylde and Sedgley Park fought out a closely-contested derby at the Woodlands.
READ MORE: Fylde coach's challenge to top-scoring trio
A cigarette paper hardly separated the sides as the game built to an extraordinary climax in the last 10 minutes, featuring a heroic Fylde defensive effort.
The two clubs are second and third in National Two North and the squads know each other well, partly through their major contributions to the Lancashire senior squad for the County Championship but also because eight players and three of the coaches involved on Saturday have played for both clubs.
Although Sedgley might claim with some justification that their second-half efforts deserved at least a draw, it was Fylde’s two tries to the visitors’ one that was the ultimate justification for the home victory.
The first half began with pressure from Fylde. This was relieved by an important steal at a Fylde lineout by the excellent visiting lock, Bob Birtwell.
Fylde struggled somewhat with their lineouts throughout the game but held some advantage in the scrummages, where Sedgley number eight Tom Ailes had to deal with being at the back of a retreating pack on numerous occasions
Fylde opened the scoring in the 11th minute. A penetrative break by full-back Tom Carleton set up a quick ruck 15 metres from the visitors’ line and Scott Rawlings was at first receiver to plough through the remnants of the defence and score near the posts. Greg Smith made the easy conversion.
The game was far from one way as Sedgley fought their way back. They forced Fylde into conceding a penalty in a kickable position and fly-half Steve Collins went for goal only to see the ball cannon off a post and into the grateful arms of lock Ollie Parkinson.
Fylde were enjoying an advantage in territory and possession at this stage and built on this in the 32nd minute.
Winger Tom Grimes made good progress down the left touchline and chipped the ball over the last defender.
His run was half-blocked and the retreating Sedge defence reached the ball first in the in-goal area.
The clearance kick went straight to Fylde and the home backs attacked to right. Rawlings turned from scorer to architect with a delightful offload to Carleton and the speedster finished off with a penetrative sprint to the line from 35 metres.
Again Smith added the extras to establish a 14-0 advantage. And so it remained as the half-time whistle blew.
The second half was a rather different story as Sedgley battled back to dominate periods in the game.
Even so, Fylde went further ahead in the 45th minute. Carleton made the first incision down the right before feeding winger Tom Roebuck.
The Sale Sharks dual-registered player broke infield and sprinted around several defenders on a mazy run only to tackled high 10 metres out.
Sedge were lucky to avoid a sinbinning but Smith converted the penalty for a 17-0 lead.
The visitors responded with spirit and energy, and the penalty count began to stack up against the home side.
Sedgley pressed deep inside the Fylde half and set up a series of drives from close-quarters. The dam had to break and it was Sedgley’s prop James Harper, also dual-registered with Sale, who got the touchdown near the posts in the 52nd minute.
Steve Collins kicked the straightforward conversion to cut the deficit to 10.
A few minutes later came a critical incident just inside the Fylde half. Sedgley knocked on from their high up and under and the ball was picked up by visiting player who was offside.
He was clattered Fylde number eight Jacob Conner, who was shown a yellow card and Collins’ penalty goal left Sedgely within a score at 17-10.
Fylde were largely on the back foot but tackled well to avoid any further damage while Conner was in the sinbin.
On his return Fylde mounted some isolated attacks and won a few penalties in critical positions.
From one, Smith mishit his goal attempt and the ball went well wide; from another, he opted to kick to the right corner but Sedgley stole the lineout ball and launched a prolonged advance down the pitch. They were willing to run the ball from deep, though the Fylde tackling was keen.
There followed nine and a half minutes of intense Sedgley pressure inside the Fylde 22.
This was fierce hand to hand combat as the visitors fought for an equalising converted try. Time and again their forwards drove towards the try line, and time and again the Fylde defence held firm. This resembled Rorke’s Drift as somehow each Sedgley move was countered by iron-willed defence.
Play continued deep into injury time as the crowd bit their collective nails in this critical top of the table game.
Sedgley managed to retain possession as they went through phase after phase near the Fylde posts.
A vital turnover by Alex Loney gave his side breathing space but the visitors were soon back hammering away on the Fylde line.
A marginally forward Sedgley pass ended the game and Fylde celebrated enthusiastically. This game could easily have gone either way and the two teams were very well matched throughout.
Fylde took the four points for the win and Sedgley earned a consolation point.
Caldy’s big win at Tynedale extended their advantage at the top to four points, though there are now 18 points between second-placed Fylde and their next opponents Sheffield Tigers in fifth.
FYLDE: Carleton; Roebuck (Carpenter 54), Wilkinson, Rawlings (Briers 70), Grimes; Smith, Lanigan; Horner, Gregory, Lewis, N Ashcroft, Parkinson, Vernon, O’Ryan (Loney 62), Conner; replacements not used: M Ashcroft, Wild.