Western Counties West
Chard 25, St Austell 24

CHARLIE Roberts nailed a penalty with the last kick of the game to seal a superb, if nail-biting, win for Chard against high-flying St Austell on Saturday, to give their survival hopes a shot in the arm, writes Glyn Hughes.

Chard started the game strongly and went ahead very early on when prop forward Dave Biss drove through to score a fine try which was well converted by Niall Crouch.

St Austell could have kicked for goal after Chard conceded the first of nine penalties but instead chose to kick for the corner and it came to nothing.

Minutes later, however, St Austell did cross the whitewash when Charlie Nicholson was credited with the touchdown.

Full-back Cavan Boyer narrowly missed the conversion attempt so Chard were still in front.

Chard were playing very positively and certainly held the upper hand for the next 20 minutes or so, Crouch increasing their lead with a well-struck penalty.

Shortly afterwards the Chard pack, playing very well despite being without several regulars, created an opportunity for Max Gosden to break through and score a try which was again converted by Crouch.

St Austell are not one of the best teams in the league for nothing, though, and they rallied well to set up a try for Boyer but, fortunately for Chard, he was unable to convert his own try.

The Chard forwards were still dominant, with the Mainwaring brothers – Joe and Benn – and Warren Lewis all making significant contributions.

Chard won a 5m scrum and the ball came out to full-back Roberts, who scored a third try for the hosts.

The try was unconverted and, despite having skipper Ryan Helliar sin binned just before the break, Chard held on to lead 22-10 at the interval.

Down to 14 men for the first 10 minutes of the second half, Chard were caught cold almost immediately as St Austell fly-half Chris Ashwin made the most of an opportunity presented to him to score.

Boyer found his kicking boots and added the conversion to reduce Chard's lead to just five points.

No more damage was done before Chard were back to their full quota of players but they looked as if they had shot themselves in the foot when Jason Wright, who had been playing superbly, committed an offence right in front of the referee who had no hesitation in awarding a penalty.

This was kicked deep into the corner and, although Chard defended as if their lives depended on it, they were unable to prevent St Austell scoring again, Andy Inch driving over following some terrific work from his forwards.

Boyer added the conversion points and from being 22-10 down St Austell were now leading 24-22.

Chard were under a lot of pressure at this point but their defensive play was outstanding and, with seconds to go, forced their way up the pitch and gained a penalty from about 35 metres out.

With Crouch having left the field earlier, Roberts took on the responsibility of taking the kick.

The home supporters could hardly bear to look but Roberts was coolness personified and calmly slotted the penalty to give Chard a vital win which, on the balance of play, they probably deserved.

A wonderful game for the neutral fans if there were any and a huge boost for Chard, who have managed to move out of the bottom two – but they know there is still a lot to do.

Chard: Roberts, Crouch, Brooks, Riley, Szydelko, Sam Mouland, Colenso, Biss, Joe Mainwaring, Benn Mainwaring, Lewis, Gosden, Wright , Hendy, Helliar.
Replacements (all used): Johnson, Stead, Moss.

There is no game scheduled for this coming Saturday but the clubhouse will be open for the Six Nations matches.

Chard are next in action away to Tiverton on Saturday, March 23.