Two tries on his home first team league debut by substitute Connor Bice helped Newark overcome a 21-9 deficit in an exciting local derby against Lincoln.
Newark’s win avenges an early league defeat by Lincoln, 39-8, and takes the team into sixth place.
Bice’s brace came late on as Newark overhauled Lincoln in the second half.
Here Andrew Fearn reports on a hectic afternoon at Kelham Road…
The early stages were a stalemate with Newark exercising control, keeping the ball tight and putting pressure on the Lincoln defence.
A Lincoln player failed to roll away in a ruck and Newark were awarded a penalty in front of the posts, duly converted by Matt Cox.
Newark continued to pile on the pressure and, following another penalty, found their way deep into the Lincoln 22. Lincoln fought back and cleared their lines to win a penalty near half way but their touch kick failed to reach its target.
After 25 minutes, the Lincoln fly half showed a clean pair of heels and scored an excellent try with a classy outside break and then added a conversion to put Lincoln ahead by 4 points, 7-3.
It was Lincoln’s turn to pile on the pressure and Newark conceded a series of penalties.
Newark were on the back foot and not helped by an injury to Max Spurr who was replaced by Rory Williams, making a welcome return after illness.
Only a couple of minutes later, Newark suffered another setback when Will Ellison was caught by a stray boot and taken to hospital with an eye injury.
On came prop Jordan Hempstead and the pack was re-jigged to accommodate him. Despite this, Newark exerted pressure in the Lincoln half and were rewarded with a penalty to the left of the posts. Cox converted and Newark started to look forward to half-time with only a one point deficit.
Lincoln had other ideas and a good handling movement saw their three quarters interlink and cross the try line on the right, touching the ball down for a try under the posts.
It was a sparkling try but what followed was anything but as a fracas broke out on the touchline involving players from both sides. Once calm was restored, the conversion was scored and Newark were 6-14 down.
Feelings were still running high and Newark’s Billy Charles was yellow carded for an off-the ball shove. 10 minutes of injury time had passed before the referee’s whistle blew for half-time; a welcome opportunity to allow everyone to cool down.
After the re-start, Newark pressed again and Cox converted an excellent penalty against the wind to put Newark back within touching distance at 9-14.
This was soon reversed when the influential Lincoln No 10 put in a clever cross kick which was caught by the right winger who jinked in for a try. The conversion was successful and, at 9-21, Newark looked in trouble.
However, Newark have earned a well-deserved reputation for doggedness and it was seen to full effect whilst roared on by an enthusiastic Kelham Road crowd.
The fight back started with a penalty award in front of the Lincoln posts which Cox converted for 12-21. Charles was then substituted by Connor Bice, making only his second appearance for the 1st XV.
Unbeknown to anyone at that stage, he was to play a crucial part in the drama which was to unfold. As he set off down his left wing, the Lincoln No4 tackled him high and was sent to the sin bin with a yellow card.
Charles made a re-appearance for the injured Pat Ford and Newark made the best of their numerical superiority. Bice was fed the ball on the left and he evaded three Lincoln tacklers to cross for a morale-boosting try. The wide conversion was well kicked by Cox, again, against a strengthening wind.
Newark were now two points adrift at 19-21 and put the Lincoln scrum under great pressure, earning another penalty. This time it was too far for Cox and the kick fell short.
Lincoln were finding it difficult to break out of defence and Newark pressed home attacks. A good thrust on the right saw the ball recycled across to the left touchline where Bice managed to evade the close attentions of the Lincoln defender to dot down in the corner. Newark were ahead 24-21, an unlikely scenario 30 minutes earlier.
The very wide conversion was missed and Newark sought to steady the ship for the final four minutes. To their credit, Lincoln fought back and a penalty kick earned them a line-out only 5 metres from the Newark try line.
Newark defended with everything at their disposal and were relieved to be awarded a penalty from which they were able to find touch before the referee blew the final whistle.
Overall, it had been a great advertisement for a local derby; keenly fought and feisty but with some outstanding individual skills on display. Both sides were warmly applauded by the crowd who had seen an absolute thriller.
Newark continue the league action next Saturday (Feb 2) at Long Eaton, kick off 2.15pm.
Newark v Lincoln: Hunter-Shaw; Ford, Britten (capt), Birch, Charles; Cox, Overland; Coulam, Chapple, Himsworth, Ellison, Matthysz, Spurr, Watt, Garland.
Subs: Hempstead, Williams, Bice.
Scoring sequence: 3-0: Cox penalty, 3-7 Lincoln try & con, 6-7 Cox penalty, 6-14 Lincoln try & con, (Half-time). 9-14 Cox penalty, 9-21 Lincoln try & con, 12-21 Cox penalty, 19-21 Bice try & Cox con, 24-21 Bice try.