Hynes is the hero as Hendon grab a dramatic late victory in crunch promotion clash
- Credit: Archant
Cian Hynes scored a dramatic last-minute winning penalty as Hendon came from behind to beat promotion rivals London French 18-16 at the death in a crucial showdown in Herts/Middlesex Division Two.
With the top two teams set to climb the national pyramid, second-placed Hendon started the day just one point ahead of their hosts. And, having lost the reverse fixture 18-17 in December, they trailed by one point in the last minute.
However Hynes - who had already scored a try, a penalty and a conversion - stepped up to score a decisive penalty with the final play and give the Dons a four-point cushion over their nearest challengers with three games left.
Hendon were under attack in the first half but their defence held up well and, although they went 3-0 down to a penalty kick after seven minutes, Hynes responded in kind with a long-range effort 10 minutes later to equalise.
A long kick from full-back Arwel Roberts then resulted in a five-metre scrum and No9 Lee Linale went for the line but was just held up as the two sides went into the break all square at 3-3.
Tactical changes were made soon after the interval, with Cosy Mutuma adding weight to the forwards, and he broke the gain line to set up a 10-metre maul, with Linale then finding Hynes, who dummied and beat the defence to score the first try of the match and give the visitors an 8-3 lead.
London French hit straight back through, and their scrum-half scored a converted try from a five-metre ruck, which was followed by a penalty kick which put the home side 13-8 up.
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With less than 20 minutes left, Hendon’s forwards looked the stronger and they pushed their way over the line from the hosts’ only 22, only to see the try disallowed because the referee was unsighted.
Both sides missed penalty kicks but, eight minutes from time, Hendon attacked again with a series of rolling mauls, and a penalty try should have been awarded as the hosts were penalised five times for their attempts to stop the momentum. The pressure was maintained, though, and Mutuma went over, with Hynes adding the extras to give Hendon a 15-13 lead.
The pendulum swung the other way again in the last few minutes as London French managed to slot a long-range penalty, regaining a slender one-point advantage.
But there was still time for one more match-changing score, with Hendon keeping the ball tight into the hosts’ 22. Linale directed short passers to Chris Towndrow and Terry Gilbride, who drove forward from the rucks to set up another rolling maul – and London French were penalised again.
That gave Hynes one last kick at goal, with a chance to win the match and strike a huge blow in the promotion fight – and he took it.
Hendon’s next challenge on Saturday is as tough as it gets as they visit the runaway leaders Hillingdon Abbots, who are eight points ahead of them at the top.