Yorkshire Division Three: Baildon 19 Thornensians 17

BAILDON, seemingly doomed to relegation two months ago, not only secured their safety three weekends ago but made it five wins out of seven in their last game of the season by toppling promotion-chasing Thornensians.

And, in the most dramatic of finales, full back Jake Duxbury won the match with the last kick – a superb penalty from near the left touchline that, taking in the diagonal, must have travelled 40 metres.

Duxbury, who is also head coach, laughed: “I much preferred it out wide than in front if I am honest as I would have missed it if it had been in front!” – a sentiment that was later echoed by his dad Dave, who is mentoring his son at Jenny Lane.

“There is not as much pressure when you are out wide as no-one expects you to kick it.”

And that effort three minutes into stoppage time wasn’t Duxbury junior’s only impressive shot at goal as he landed a 60-metre penalty – from Baildon’s own 10-metre line – also downhill nine minutes into the second half that put them 13-12 in front, having trailed 12-0 to the Twickenham-bound visitors.

“With the wind behind it was a hit and hope job,” confessed Duxbury, “but I knew I had the distance as I had done it in the warm-up so we thought we would give it a go and it went over.”

Thornensians, who face Reeds Weybridge on Sunday in the RFU Junior Vase final, led 12-0 after 24 minutes thanks to tries by Oliver Cox and Scott Berry (both when Baildon’s Danny Pollard was in the sin-bin), with Tom Holt converting Cox’s try, and Duxbury admitted: “We had a poor start. We know that we could have played better in that opening 15 or 20 minutes but we got sucked into a game-plan that we didn’t really want to play.

“If you had rolled the clock back two months we probably wouldn’t have been able to sort that out, but we pulled ourselves out of a hole, played our game and brought it back and I am incredibly proud.

“I would not have come back here if I didn’t think that we could survive as the quality of player here is far and above where they were sitting in the table.

“I watched a couple of Baildon games – Harrogate Pythons and Knottingley – and there was never a doubt in my mind that we couldn’t turn it around but we needed other results to go our way, and Aireborough and Mods (Leeds Modernians) did us a few favours, but beating Halifax Vandals was a huge, huge win for us and I knew that we had got it (survival) after my first match, which was the 25-0 win at Sheffield Medicals.”

Duxbury explained the large turnaround by saying: “We have just put in a little bit of structure that needed to be put in and played a very simple game-plan – one that we thought that we were capable of doing but one that is very hard to defend against and adds a bit more than people are used to in Yorkshire Three.

“But I can’t take the credit as the players, both first and second team, have put in the effort on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

“They just followed a system that works – such as not getting sucked into dogfights when we don’t have the personnel for that – as has been proved by the results.”

Baildon, who were lucky not to concede a penalty try early on from referee Billy Murphy for successive penalties in their red zone, needed something up the hill before half-time and got it in the 40th minute when winger Luke Strauss got a try out of nothing, with Duxbury adding the conversion.

The latter then slotted a 44th-minute penalty to reduce the deficit to two points before that long-range effort by Duxbury put them ahead five minutes later.

Thornensians came close to losing their rag in a feisty second half, and Baildon prop Adam Hewitt and the visitors’ Rob Raper were sin-binned after a brawl in the 58th minute.

Duxbury extended Baildon’s lead to 16-12 15 minutes later with a penalty from near the 22, but the dancing feet of Holt looked like he had won it for Thorne with a try two minutes from time, but Duxbury took his opportunity magnificently when home scrum half Ollie Williams was tackled without the ball in stoppage time.

Duxbury, who took a blow to the nose late on, had some sympathy for Twickenham-bound Thornensians, who now need to beat second-from-bottom Aireborough (away, May 11) and promotion rivals Harrogate Pythons (home, May 18) to be certain of going up behind champions Wensleydale.

He said: “There were only a few of our lads playing here who have had that experience of playing at Twickenham (Baildon reached the Junior Vase final there in 2012 and 2013), but it is a horrible one playing the weekend before as you cannot put it out of your mind.

“You cannot go half-hearted into anything but what if you have a bit of a niggle in the back of your leg and you think ‘That is not right. Do I risk it? Do I carry on?’ and it is requires a hard mentality.

“But when we went to Twickenham we did it very differently as we had a few key players missing in our league matches prior to Twickenham and they couldn’t do that as they needed to win.

“The first year we finished third in the league and were not going to do more than that and the second year we had pretty much assured ourselves of promotion and we had about four or five weeks after our semi-final whereas they have had two.

“You don’t want to miss playing at Twickenham as it is very special.”