Chinnor kept their promotion challenge on track in the most dramatic fashion, scoring a breakaway try in the final minute of the game to maintain their unbeaten home record and beat Barnes 24-17.
As the clock ticked down to the 80th minute, Barnes were camped on Chinnor’s line searching for the score that would clinch a magnificent win for the visitors.
The hosts, desperate to keep their promotion chances alive and their unbeaten home record this season, repelled wave after wave of attack. Somehow the ball got turned over and replacement scrum-half Greg Goodfellow tapped and went through the merest of gaps.
Pulled down near the 10 metre mark, the ball was recycled and down the line it went to captain Danny Barnes who sliced through the defence. A shimmy here, an inside pass there to Junior Fatialofa and lock forward Ben Manning, back to Barnes who dived over the line to win it at the death.
Roddy Giles converted and brought this compelling game to a thrilling end.
Some two hours earlier Chinnor had welcomed Barnes to a sunny south Oxfordshire bolstered by new arrivals in scrum half Josh Davies, former London Welsh No 8 Ben Pienaar and prop Joe Hutchinson who started on the bench.
An early blood injury saw Barnes scrum-half Franklin replaced by Hamish Reeves but the visitors were well-organised and after some sustained pressure, they were the first to score when captain Jamie Collins went over near the posts following a line-out. Tom O’Toole converted.
Chinnor looked for an immediate reply but were let down by a number of handling errors and solid Barnes defence. They did, however, begin to dominate the scrummage and from a scrum penalty on 17 minutes, Josh Davies’ long pass found Bev Armitage in space and over he went. Giles missed the conversion but the hosts were off and running.
A superb line break by man-of-the-match Kieran Goss after 24 minutes was passed down the line from Armitage to Danny Barnes but several thrusts at the Barnes line came up short.
The main talking point of the first period came on the half-hour. A break by Chinnor’s winger Lamont was superbly off-loaded to Davies who broke into the Barnes half where he was tackled head high by winger and Chinnor old boy Robbie Martey. The referee deemed this was worthy of a red card under the new directive and also yellow carded Chinnor prop Tom Price for retaliation.
From the resulting penalty, Chinnor kicked to the corner and hooker Jamie Townsend went over from the line-out. Giles slotted the conversion to make it 12-7 after 33 minutes.
With both sides down to 14 men, Barnes came straight back from the restart and from a line-out close to the Chinnor line, were unlucky not to go over to tie the scores. With half-time beckoning, Barnes again broke through but another try opportunity went begging.
With hooker Mark Darlington replacing Jamie Townsend and prop Joe Hutchinson on for his debut, the hosts looked to put pressure on the Barnes scrum at the start of the second half but despite gaining the upper hand, they were mysteriously penalised on a number of occasions.
This was compounded when Ben Pienaar was yellow carded on 54 minutes and O’Toole kicked the resulting penalty, narrowing the scoreline to 12-10.
It was Chinnor’s turn to regroup and made a number of personnel changes. Greg Goodfellow replaced Davies at scrum-half and Tom Burns came on for Richard Thorpe.
The hosts continued to be frustrated. Lock Nathan Hanney went over after a storming run but was deemed to have been held up and full-back Goss made a superb defence-splitting break but again it came to nothing.
To the bemusement of the home crowd, it was Barnes who scored next when fly-half O’Toole cut through the Chinnor defence to go over under the posts. His conversion put the visitors 17-12 in front.
With 15 minutes remaining, the hosts’ unbeaten home record was now under serious threat and this led to the most dramatic denouement to a game many will witness.
With nine minutes remaining Burns went over in the corner despite tremendous Barnes defending. Giles narrowly missed the conversion but the scores were tied 17-17.
The visitors weren’t done and from the restart, they were awarded what looked a kickable penalty to take the honours. It wasn’t to be for Tom O’Toole but Chinnor couldn’t clear and had to defend their line as the clock ran down before Barnes’ try saw the hosts to the most dramatic of victories.
The 24-17 bonus point win keeps the Villagers top and unbeaten at home.
Chinnor are at Bury St Edmunds this weekend.