The Macleay Valley Mustangs overcame a 19-6 half-time deficit to hand the Wauchope Blues their first defeat of the season in a nail biting contest on Saturday.
The Mustangs fought their way back into the contest and took a 20-19 lead with two minutes remaining but an unforced mistake almost cost them the remarkable victory.
On the back of a Macleay Valley error, the Blues were gifted a penalty right in front of the sticks and they elected to take a shot at a penalty goal, which would have gave Wauchope a one-point lead with less than a minute on the clock.
However, the pressure was evidently too much for the Blues goal kicker as he skewed his attempt to the right of the posts.
The defeat was Wauchope's first of the season and they now sit in equal first position with Macleay Valley.
Mustangs coach Russell Lardner was jubilant after the victory but admitted his side was lucky to escape with the competition points.
"They should have beat us by 50," Lardner told the Argus.
"They had all of the possession and momentum in the first half but credit to the boys and our defence, it kept us in the game and once we got a bit of ball we were able to fight our way back into it.
"We were on the back foot almost the whole half. Our defence was solid and close to unbreakable. The penalty count against us was ridiculous."
The Mustangs were first on the board through a try to Stephan Blair inside the first five minutes but it was all Wauchope for the remainder of the first half.
To make matters worse, repeat infringements by the Mustangs led to Macleay captain Richie Roberts sin binned with eight-minutes before the break. However, the Mustangs defence held firm and only conceded a field goal during this period.
The early stages of the second half followed the script of the first, as Wauchope remained on the front foot.
The tide changed though when Lardner was inserted with 25-minutes left.
The direction of the attack straightened up and soon after Lardner darted out of dummy half and provided a short ball to Roberts, who dived over under the posts.
Macleay were back within striking distance when Cecil Lardner made a break down the sideline and offloaded the ball inside to Tyler Roberts, who beat three defenders on his way to the try line.
The Mustangs then took the lead when brothers Owen and Stephan Blair combined in the final two minutes.
Stephan placed a perfectly weighted kick into Wauchope's in-goal area and Owen used his scintiliating speed to be first to the ball to give the Mustangs a 20-19 lead.
Wauchope then missed their aforementioned penalty goal attempt.
Lardner was ecstatic with the victory and was proud of his players for digging deep for the club.
"It was an amazing feeling to comeback and get that win, I think it shows a lot about the culture we are building and the pride the boys have for the jersey," Lardner said.
"Every single one of our players did their job, put in great effort and worked hard for the win."
Lardner claims it was an exciting match and a few locals passed on words of encouragement to him after the game.
"A couple of people from the community have come up to me since the game and told me they were proud of everyone's effort, especially in defence, and that it was one of the best games they have ever seen," Lardner said.
Lardner also thanked Kevin Kennedy and Wayne Sines, who backed up from reserve grade.
The Mustangs' attention now turns to the Taree City Bulls, who they will face this weekend.
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