Sheffield Eagles snatched a dramatic last minute win to see of a gallant Barrow Raiders rally and clinch a fifth consecutive win.
Their strong forwards laid the foundation with Craig Cook sealing victory through a drop-goal and a last minute try after Barrow had overturned a 22-10 deficit to tie the scores.
The bonus point secures Barrow first place in the Championship and home advantage in the playoffs, Sheffield retain an outside chance of a second place finish.
Barrow looked to get off the best of start when Gary Broadbent’s impromptu hoof to the right corner found Ballard in acres of space to touchdown, but the score was ruled-out for offside in the build-up.
Instead it was Sheffield who took the lead, capitalising on a penalty 10 metres from the visitors line to score. Kyle Wood’s angled run and reverse pass prising a gap for PNG centre, Menzie Yere. to plunge over at left centre. John Woodcock converted.
Barrow second rower, Martin Ostler, charged through on an angled run to hit Jamie Rooney’s neat offload and brush aside the tacklers in scoring by the left upright. Rooney’s kick levelled the scores.
The Raiders edged in front when James Nixon pounced on Andy Ellis’s dab to the left corner as Barrow showed their Championship credentials. Half back, Ellis, is rumoured to be heading for the Celtic Crusaders for 2010.
Nixon showed his defensive tenacity to in dispossessing Sam Barlow as he dove in at the right corner. But Barlow was over on the next Eagles attack to tie the score, with Woodcock’s conversion making it 12-10.
Although Barrow pressed hard to hit back before the break, handling errors and mistakes proved costly.
And Sheffield extended their lead as the hooter sounded. Matt Stringer crashing over between the posts, leaving and easy conversion for Woodcock to make it 18-10.
Danny Mills stretched that lead still further on 49 minutes, reacting quickly to dive on Ropati’s dab to the left corner.
Experienced halfback, Rooney, took the game into his own hands in the middle stages of the half, landing two penalties and two drop goal to edge the Raiders with six points. More importantly it put them into bonus-point territory, essentially gaining them the one-point they needed to secure a first place finish.
But it took stout Raiders’ defence to halt Stringer on the line as the prop charged into a four-man gang-tackle.
Chris Young completed the comeback, taking Ellis’s short pass to plunge over by the posts. Rooney’s conversion levelled the scores.
Then Craig Cook stepped up. First landing a drop goal. Then selling a cheeky dummy to go under the posts from close range. Woodcock’s conversion sealed the 29-22 victory
4 Yere try, Woodcock goal (1/1) 6-0
18 Ostler try, Rooney goal (1/1) 6-6
22 Nixon try, Rooney (1/2) 6-10
29 Barlow try, Woodcock goal (2/2) 12-10
39 Stringer try, Woodcock goal (3/3) 18-10
49 Mills try, Woodcock miss (3/4) 22-10 56 Rooney goal (2/3) 22-12
62 Rooney goal (3/4) 22-14
66 Rooney DG 22-15 67 Rooney DG 22-16
72 Young try, Rooney goal (4/5) 22-22
74 Cook DG, 23-22
77 Cook try, Woodcock goal (4/5) 29-22
T: Yere (4), Barlow (29), Stringer (39), Mills (49), Cook (77)
G: Woodcock 4/5
DG: Cook (74)
T:Ostler (18), Nixon (22), Young (72)
G: Rooney 4/5
DG: Rooney (66, 67)