A LATE Joe Hudson penalty proved decisive as Rugby St Andrews battled to a hard-fought 24-23 victory against local rivals Rugby Welsh.
Hudson kicked two late penalties to help Saints secure a seventh successive win after earlier tries from Ben Davison and Jack Kettleborough at the Hillmorton Grounds.
And the result means Saints lead the Counties 3 Midlands East (South) table by four points, having won all seven of their league matches this season.
Prior to kick-off, the teams observed a minute’s silence in memory of former Rugby Welsh player and long-time vice president Gareth Llewellyn.
The visitors made a bright start and took an early three-point lead through a penalty after forcing Saints into a deliberate knock-on in their own 22 which resulted in a yellow card for the home side.
However, despite playing with a man less, Saints scored the game’s first try from the restart as Davison’s jinking run ended with a try and Chris Halcrow kicked the conversion.
Saints were then reduced to 13-men with the game just eight minutes old after another home player received a yellow card for leading with a forearm.
And Welsh made their numerical advantage count with a converted try on 13 minutes to reclaim the lead in an action-packed opening quarter.
Poor discipline from both teams disrupted the flow of the game as Halcrow kicked two penalties for Saints and Welsh responded with two of their own to take a three-point lead heading into the break.
After a scoreless second period, the game burst into life with 10 minutes left to play as Kettleborough went through a gap to dive over the line and give Saints the lead.
And a good break from the restart allowed Saints to slowly make their way up the field with the pressure resulting in a penalty which Hudson kicked via the aid of the upright.
Hudson kicked a second penalty soon after to extend the home side’s lead to two scores before Welsh secured a losing bonus point with a try under the posts from the final play of the game.
Saints are next in action away at Castle Donnington on Saturday, December 2 with kick-off at 2.15pm at Queensway.
The club’s second team lost 14-12 to Southam, with the match scoreless until the final quarter as Sam Clough and Tom White crossed for Rugby.