Despite playing most of the game a man short, Sherwood Wolf Hunt did themselves a huge favour in the Midlands North League last weekend with an impressive 39-22 win over leaders Derby City at Debdale Park.
The game itself was always going to be a tough battle, with both sets of players well aware of what was at stake, and both teams being very evenly matched over the past two seasons.
Sherwood started the brighter of the two with stand in hooker Chris Whitehead going in for his first try in Wolf Hunt colours, with just three minutes on the clock.
However, the game as a contest was almost ruined before it had really got going when Wolf Hunt captain Lee Chapman was dismissed following a brawl.
With Wolf Hunt down to 12 men, and 70 minutes left the final result might easily have gone the other way, but the sending-off seemed to have a positive impact as the side showed real character.
For Sherwood, it was a backs-against-the wall type of game at this point.
And with Derby being next to score, then taking the lead and applying more and more pressure on the Wolf Hunt try line, Sherwood had to perform excellently to go in two points up at the break, thanks to further tries from barnstorming prop Francis Appleton, and in-form centre Joe Ducker.
The second half continued as the first ended, nip and tuck, with both teams scoring points.
An early try from vice-captain Pete Alldread helped to settle the nerves, but Derby hit back soon after with a well worked try out wide.
Wolf Hunt made good use of the excellent boot of John-Ross Ward, kicking two penalties to edge his side in front, meaning Derby needed two scores and two conversions to get close.
Both forward packs battled hard, but prop forward Terry Titi barged his way through on the halfway line, finding space and then support from winger Tom Childs to touch down – a score which broke Derby.
Sherwood weren’t done and Ward again showed some fine game management as Wolf Hunt worked upfield.
He slotted a one pointer, keeping the scoreboard kicking over, and most importantly keeping possession in Wolf Hunt hands.
Finally came a well-worked try for half back Jake Manning, wrestling with a tired Derby defence to find his way over the line just before the referee called time.
With John-Ross Ward kicking five from six, Sherwood took local bragging rights and adding an important two points to the league table.
In a game that was very difficult to single out any one player, second row forward Aaron Wycherley took away the man of the match award for an outstanding 80 minute stint.
Things don’t get any easier for Wolf Hunt, as they welcome Midlands South league leaders Birmingham Bulldogs to Debdale Park in the Midlands Cup semi-final this Saturday (2.30pm).