FLY-HALF Dane Sherratt landed a long-range penalty goal on full-time to snatch Hamilton an 11-10 win over Maitland at Marcellin Park on Saturday and move the defending premiers to the top of the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union ladder.
In a dour contest dominated by defence, the Blacks looked to have secured a win when Pat Batey kicked a penalty to put the home side in front 10-8 with less than five minutes remaining.
But as they have done so many times in the past three seasons, the Hawks found a way back.
From the restart, Maitland rucked the ball up and kicked long. Receiving possession deep inside their own half, the Hawks worked the ball methodically up field and earned a penalty at the ruck 41 metres out.
Sherratt, who had a clearing kick charged down for Maitland’s try in the first half, had just enough to get the ball over the cross bar.
“Dane’s kick may have grazed the black dot,” relieved Hamilton coach Scott Coleman said. “It certainly wasn’t a great game. It was tough, it was physical and a real dour game. I told the boys that good teams can win ugly when they need to. We put ourselves in a position to win the game at the end and were good enough to do it. Credit to them.”
The win moved Hamilton to 40 points and above Merewether (37), who have now had two byes.
In a double blow for Maitland co-captain Michael Howell (ankle) and lineout general Travis Brooke (knee) aggravated injures.
Elsewhere Saturday, Lake Macquarie went within a whisker of upsetting University at Bernie Curran Oval.
Trailing 24-19 but with momentum, the Roos attacked the Students line in the dying stages. They appeared certain to score but University fly-half Charlie Mortimer came up with a big shot on Dave Alo a metre out from the tryline which dislodged the ball.
University had led 24-12 after the scores were locked at 12-all at halftime.
At Bill Strong Oval, Charles Fielder, Isaac Kneipp and Junior Polai each scored two tries to help steer Nelson Bay to a 42-33 win over Southern Beaches.
In Singleton, Wanderers held the Bulls scoreless in the second half on the way to a 43-10 triumph.
Table: Hamilton 40, Merewether 37, Nelson Bay 37, Wanderers 33, Maitland 32, Southern Beaches 22, Singleton 16, University 16, Lake Macquarie 1.
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