Jubilant Paviors have clinched promotion to the Midlands Premier Division of the National League after beating Dudley Kingswinford in the promotion play-offs.
Paviors had finished runners-up in the Midlands 1 East division, only 11 points behind champions Kettering, while Dudley had finished second in the Midlands 1 West division.
In a tight and dramatic game that was a wonderful advert for rugby, the Burntstump Hill-based outfit triumphed 33-30 to add promotion to the Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Derbyshire (NLD) Cup and Nottinghamshire county cup that they have already won in a memorable season.
As both sides extol the same virtues of skill and style, the match was a much-anticipated affair, drawing a huge crowd from across the Midlands and, in one case, from Dubai!
On a cold and blustery afternoon, Dudley took an early lead via two well-struck penalties, and Paviors looked a little nervy in the early contacts.
But skipper Doug Billam crossed the line to settle things down and get his side on the scoreboard before George Billam put them in the lead with a penalty.
Dudley hit back with a penalty of their own to edge in front 9-8 by the 25th minute, and they extended their lead to 16-8 before outstanding tries by wings Alex Barton and Will Taylor gave Paviors a half-time advantage of 20-16.
It was turning into one of those games where a momentary loss of concentration could prove decisive, so both coaches reminded their respective squads of the responsibilities they held.
After the break, re-energised Dudley hit the ground running and scored a fine try to retake the lead at 23-20. Paviors then drew Level with another George Billam penalty.
At this stage, Paviors’ scrummage began to dominate and it came as no surprise when the pack drove over with Ollie Collingham touching down. George Billam added the extras to allow Paviors to get ahead at 30-23.
In the last five minutes of a thrilling contest, Paviors were awarded a long-range penalty which George Billam took on. The tension and drama of the moment was exquisite as the ball sailed between the uprights.
By now, the Paviors squad and the crowd were beginning to believe. Dudley, however, had other ideas and went for one last-ditch effort. They kept the ball alive through several phases to score between the posts and reduced the deficit to 33-30. Thankfully for the Paviors faithful, this signalled the end of a game that saw both sides going at it, hammer and tongs, but always in the right spirit.
PAVIORS LINE-UP -- Stirling, Wells, Collier, Hanson, Allen, Tipton, Reeson, Collingham O., Green, Billam G., Barton, Eggleshaw P., Billam D., Taylor W., Marsella. Replacements: Mason, Hall, Winning, Graham C.