Featherstone 25 Acorn 24
Drop Goal Killer as Acorn lose thriller
York Acorn now know how York City Knights & St Helens feel when being literally dropped in it after losing a dramatic 25 - 24 fixture away at Featherstone Lions in their last league game of their National Conference First Division campaign.
A loss that sees them finish 5th and therefore miss out on a home draw in the play offs and instead they have a tough trip to a strangely out of form Milford side in 3 weeks time.
The reason why the finishing league table has a different look to it then most people anticipated , is because bottom of the table side Blackbrook failed to fulfil their fixture away to Hunslet Warriors on Saturday and this follows their non appearance away to Hunslet Club Parkside recently - therefore the league in accordance with their rules have expunged their results for season.
This means, most teams will lose four points - but Normanton on other hand will only lose 1 point and therefore have ended up third on points difference with Milford in 4th.
Which means, if we are successful then we could once again face Normanton in the final - and a repeat of our successful play off final win 2 years ago.
The hosts however on the back of this narrow win and Hull Dockers heavy loss to Normanton had avoided the relegation trap door on points difference , with the Humbersiders going down.
Due to Blackbrooks demise, they have in fact finished in 7th spot and 4 points clear of the Dockers - who along with Hunslet Warriors have still been relegated.
Prior to news of Blackbrooks non fulfilment of fixture, this match was thought to have so much resting on it.
The extra incentive that Featherstone had for winning this game was probably the main difference between the two sides at times,but Acorn couldn't be faulted for their workrate - just their skills application at times that let them down at crucial moments in this absorbing clash.
As against Normanton 2 games ago, Acorn found it hard to get out of their own 20 , as Featherstone adopted the same tactic of either finding touch deep in the Acorn half , or turning over possession close to Acorns try line and then regularly putting extra bodies in the tackle and slowing Acorn down and nullifying Acorns progress up the pitch.
Acorn often had to kick from deep and this allowed their hosts to start their own sets of from a more advanced position on the park.
Acorn will need to improve their exit strategies if they are to make any kind of impact in the play offs.
As to the game itself, Featherstone struck first on 7 minutes when center Davi Graham crossed over out wide on the tight for an unconverted try which gave the hosts a 4-0 lead.
Acorn hit back on 13 minutes, when scrum half Lewis Brown executed a stunning back hand pass close to the oppositions try line and second rower Matthew Woods was on hand to crash over for a try which center Ryan Gallacher added the extras to put Acorn 4- 6 in front.
Featherstone punished Acorn for too many missed tackles in the build up to their 20th minute try when they eventually caught Acorn napping and scored a try in the left hand corner through Connor Grice, which inspirational full back Ian Jackson added an excellent touchline conversion to give the lead back to the hosts at 10 - 6.
A scoreline that stayed this way until the half time break.
Featherstone took the game by the scruff of the neck, when they opened a crucial 12 point lead.
First they punished Acorns on line defence when they allowed substitute forward Danny Glassell to crash over despite the attentions of several would be tacklers, for a 50th minute try which Jackson added the conversion to giving the hosts a positive 16 - 6 score line.
This was soon stretched to 18 - 6 , when Jackson added a 52nd minute penalty goal.
Acorn stopped the rot, when they reduced their hosts lead to 18 - 12 when Acorns top performer, full back Mark Sanderson stayed strong in the tackle to offload to prolific try scoring centre Ryan Gallacher who crossed for a 60th minute try which substitute stand off Matthew Chilton added the conversion to.
Acorn drew level on 67 minutes, when acting half Lewis Lord created space before sending prop forward Elliott Bulmer in for a try which Matthew Chilton then added the conversion to.
Unfortunately Acorn, having done all the hard work to battle back and draw level, were once again guilty of soft on line defending and allowed Glassell to squeeze the ball down over the try line for a 70th minute try , despite good numbers.
Jackson's conversion saw the Featherstone side regain the lead at 24 - 18.
The same player then produced the killer blow on 76 minutes when he put over a brilliant 40m drop goal that gave his side a crucial 7 point lead at 25 - 18.
The home sides fans were still celebrating, when Acorn re set up a tense finale, when substitute Brandon Harris crossed for a Matthew Chilton goaled try on 78 minutes - which cut Featherstones lead to that solitary drop goal point.
Acorn still had time to try and pull this game out of the fire but they couldn't quite create the opening.
Sanderson apart Acorn were well served by the tackling of Reece Rushworth, Tim Stubbs and Tim Elliott.
Whilst in attack, Acorn were usually effective off the work rate of Bulmer, Woods and substitute Harris.
But in truth this was a below par performance by a side who seem to have lost their edge in recent weeks since losing to Normanton, but are still capable of putting together two winnable performances come the play offs.