Old Rishworthians player-coach Chris Stone was massively relieved as his side came from behind to snatch a 28-25 win at Roundhegians in Yorkshire Two yesterday.
The promotion-gunning visitors did not get their game together until the last 20 minutes.
By that time, they had taken on the Santa role and gifted the home side two interception tries.
Despite a good start, which saw them take a nine-point lead with three Josh Kelly penalties, they looked rusty after the long festive lay-off and could do little right.
Their opponents were keen and powerful and protected the ball well. Rishworthians won little possession and then kicked it away.
Their game plan seemed to disappear and their most potent try-scorer, left wing Anthony Shoesmith, never received a pass.
But for great defence on their own line they might well have suffered a first defeat since early October.
Nine points ahead, Rishworthians looked in control until they gifted ‘Hegians a converted interception try and then compounded the error with a yellow card and a penalty to fall behind.
Centre Sam Nunn almost scored with a searing run on the wing before a kick ahead, but he could not reach the ball before it went dead.
The home men were up for the challenge and their tackling stopped Rishworthians in their tracks.
Then it was Christmas again as the visitors gifted their opponents a second converted interception try.
The last act of the first half got Rishworthians back on track. Teenage flanker Jacob Bower won good lineout possession and the ball went out to Nunn who put in a strong run.
Bower was round again to get the ball from the breakdown and fire it out for centre Taniela Bakoso, who ran through the defence to score wide out. Kelly added the conversion to make it 17–16 at the break.
Rishworthians opened the second half poorly and soon conceded a penalty. Bakoso was yellow carded for a ‘no arms’ tackle and ‘Hegians took advantage of the extra man with an excellent try in the corner, which was not converted.
With less than 20 minutes left and restored to full complement, the visitors finally got their game together.
It started with a fine break by skipper Fraser Swarbrooke, which seemed to inspire his side.
Scrum half Ed Cockroft crossed the line, but the referee judged the ball had not been grounded properly.
Rishworthians camped in the home 22 and Swarbrooke won good lineout possession before being driven over and prop Phil Kershaw touched down in the corner. Kelly added a fine conversion to leave them trailing by two points.
They came straight back from the restart and prop Anthony Nathaniel, who had a fine game, forced his way through in a fierce run, before getting the ball out to winger Chris Flanagan, who danced through in the corner to score and save Rishworthian blushes.
A nervy six minutes followed, but the Copley men held out to register what at one point looked an unlikely victory.
The Development team had a fine 40–5 win over Barnsley at Copley with six tries, two for Gerard Rollings, and one each for Ollie Marshall, Matthew Hunt-Brown, newcomer Ben Wainwright and Joe Billing, who kicked three conversions.
Rhys Town also added two conversions.