Manchester United supremo Sir Alex Ferguson coined the phrase ‘squeaky bum time’ and it’s certainly apt for high-flying Sheffield Tigers over the next two weeks.
They face the first of a home double-header showdown against fellow promotion-chasing rivals South Leicester on Saturday (3pm) followed a week later by the visit of Longton.
Tigers currently sit fourth in the National 3 Midlands table on 82 points, nine behind Longton having played a game less and a further point adrift of South Leicester but with two games in hand.
Bromsgrove, who ended the Dore Moor side’s incredible 14 match unbeaten run a couple of weeks ago, retain top spot on 94 points, again having played two games more.
Tigers know that a victory double would put them in with a great chance of achieving their promotion dream but Andy Barnes’ men need no reminding that it will be far from easy.
South Leicester beat them 36-17 back in September and subsequently inflicted a 43-13 defeat on Bromsgrove a few weeks later. They were just edged out 23-17 in the return in January.
Fittingly it was Barnes who turned last-gasp match winner for his side at Luton last Saturday. Tigers still trailed 14-12 with just a minute to go but Richard Joel’s leap of faith won a line-out and from the ensuing driving maul, the skipper touched down and Jonny West slotted the conversion with the last kick of the game to give them a dramatic 19-14 victory.
At the start of the game it had taken the visiting pack 20 minutes to turn on the power with a driving maul which resulted in the home team’s flanker being sin-binned for pulling it down five metres short of the line. More problems followed when the Luton prop joined his teammate in the bin and Tigers took advantage as Callum MacKenzie touched down for an unconverted try.
However, they failed to make the numbers count and on the half-hour mark a dropped pass allowed the home side flanker to pick up and sprint 60 metres for an opportunist converted try.
Ironically Tigers waited until Luton were back up to full strength before they regained the lead with a touch of class. A searing break from full back Jon Feeley resulted in a superbly timed pass to winger Jamie Clark who did the rest and West then fired over a quality conversion from the touchline.
Jon Buchanan’s powerful and destructive tackling was becoming a major feature for the Sheffield side but they suffered a setback after 50 minutes when Nick Pearson was sin-binned. Luton pinned Tigers back and from a driving maul and subsequent ruck, their hooker went over for a converted try to give them a two point lead which they held until Man of the Match Barnes’ timely intervention.
Tigers: Ross (Cutts), Thomson, Cone, Joel, Hayter, Barnes, Pearson, Cook (Wragg), West, Wright, Clark, MacKenzie, Buchanan, Morley, Feeley.
Replacement (not used): Strickson.