Another thriller at the Rock saw Rosslyn Park end Old Elthamians’ unbeaten run to climb to fourth in the table, two points behind leaders Cinderford whom they beat on the first day of the season.

Taken over the whole 80 minutes Elthamians probably enjoyed more of the possession than did Park; it was what each side did with the ball and their control of it that made the difference.

A nightmare start for Park saw Player / Coach Jordan Turner-Hall helped from the field in only the second minute. But Park were first on the scoreboard with a well-struck penalty from fly half Greg Lound on four minutes.

Both sides looked dangerous in attack but presented strong defences. It was the visitors who blinked first when their star winger, Dom Lespierre, had his clearance kick under pressure charged down by Park’s Benji Marfo who followed through to score. Lound added a touchline conversion for 10-0 on 10 minutes.

OEs came back at Park. Finding no way through some outstanding tackling, fly half Tom White attempted a drop goal. It narrowly missed, but his side were awarded a penalty in the same position and this time he was spot-on to reduce the deficit to 10-3 on 16 minutes.

A real ding dong battle saw Lound cancel that out two minutes later with a penalty of his own for 13-3.

Elthamians tried to come back but a super piece of anticipation by Park’s replacement centre, Connor Hayhow saw him intercept a marginally loose pass to sprint out of his own half to score at the other end, Lound converting for 20-3 on 18 minutes.

A titanic struggle developed between two fine teams. Just as it looked as if Park would reach the interval with their lead intact the visitors set up a tremendous forward assault on the line. Park looked to have resisted but eventually OEs’ number 8 Ben King squeezed over, Claxton converting to bring the half-time whistle at 20-10.

Park had the first attack after the interval and their pressure led to a loose pass that was seized on by winger Henry Robinson to score in the corner, Lound nailing a touchline conversion for 27-10 with barely a minute on the clock.

The visitors made an immense effort to come back. Park had to – and did – defend brilliantly, but on 52 minutes OEs’ left winger James Colledge squeezed in at the corner to narrow the scores to 27-17.

Ollie Grove came on at scrum half for Park, in place of Jack Gash and assisted the defensive effort with some clearances of prodigious distance but Park could not prevent scrum half Ollie Claxton from finding a way over the line, White’s conversion narrowing the deficit to 27-24 with 18 minutes remaining.

Park showed great character and resilience to wrest their way back to dictating things. Gash returned to the fray to replace Lound, so it was Harry Leonard who stepped up to take the penalty that increased the lead to six points with ten minutes remaining.

Both sides went at it hammer and tongs.  Park’s pack set up a superb drive for a number of pick-and-drives on the OE line, but it was the rapier of Gash that found a way over, Leonard converting to effectively win the match at 37-24 with less than two minutes remaining.

OE strove mightily to get the try that would have seen them gain both the four-try and losing bonus points, but Park held firm to cement a fine win.

Park: Edwards; Robinson, Turner-Hall, Marfo; Lound; Gash; Nwakor, Vaughan-Edwards, Doran-Jones; Frampton, Gillanders; Macfarlane, Barnard, Laventure.

Bench: Hughes, Wade, Spencer, Grove, Hayhow

Park scorers: Marfo (T), Hayhow (T), Robinson (T), Gash (T) Lound (2P, 3C), Leonard (P, C

Next Saturday Park make the long trip North to face title-favourites Darlington Mowden Park. Mowden got their season off to a good start with maximum-point victories away to Bishops Stortford and home to Rotherham, but slipped up the following week when losing away to Park’s last opponents, Old Elthamians and – last Saturday – lost 18-0 at Blackheath. However, ‘away’ form has always been Mowden’s Achilles heel and Park will know they are in for a battle at the 25,000 capacity all-seater Northern Echo Arena, which has rarely been a happy hunting ground for them.