STEVIE McCOLL crucially finished off a rare moment of magic as relieved Yorkshire Carnegie rescued victory against Hartpury RFC.
James Lowes’ side were in danger of losing out to their 11th-placed opponents, the promoted Gloucestershire team who were fully deserving of a 16-13 lead heading into the final stages of a scrappy Championship contest.
Error-ridden Carnegie had struggled throughout to gain any cohesion but, fortunately, managed to click for McColl’s stunning try in the 71st minute.
The Scottish winger, who used to play for Gloucester, returned a kick from deep inside his own half, unleashed fellow wideman George Watkins down the middle and, after Chris Elder got close, followed up to complete the 90-metre raid.
Alex Davies converted but Carnegie, who remain in third, still had to defend hard as their rivals pushed close, replacement scrum-half Will Homer denying George Perkins just as he looked set to race in. No8 Richard Beck excelled for the home side, young hooker Harry Newborn claimed man of the match and captain Richard Mayhew produced some thunderous defensive hits.
The win did not come without a cost, though, after lock Mike Myerscough and prop James Thraves both came off with ankle injuries before the half-hour mark.
Furthermore, flanker Josh Bainbridge, who came on for Myerscough, was in hospital last night having suffered a suspected fractured cheekbone so it is perhaps fortunate Carnegie do not have a game next weekend.
Having drawn at Hartpury in September, they trailed 10-6 here at the break following a deeply frustrating first period.
Two Davies penalties early on had seemingly given them a platform on which to build.
However, they struggled to gain any momentum with a series of set-piece malfunctions allowing Hartpury to build their own pressure instead.
Carnegie subsequently spent most of the first period in their own half but they generally defended well and irritated their opponents enough to make sure the damage was not too great.
Lowes’ side did struggle in the scrum and they were certainly thankful Scotland international Kevin Bryce, the on-loan Edinburgh tighthead, was available to make his debut when Thraves departed.
That said, both sides hit problems in the line-out and, for a spell, each also squandered their own ball.
Casual Carnegie twice saw kicks charged down and few could argue when the Gloucester outfit crossed for the game’s opening try.
They did so with alarming ease, however, after edging close, simply shifting the ball wide to the left where winger Tom Seabrook cross untouched in the 29th minute.
James Williams improved and kicked also when Carnegie conceded a scrum penalty just before the break.
When Elder was deemed to have produced a tip-tackle at the start of the second half, the Hartpury fly-half extended their lead to 13-6.
Lowes’ side did respond quickly, finally getting their line-out drive sorted with Beck claiming the ball and 20-year-old Newborn touching down.
Earlier, they had twice ignored kickable penalties so it was reward for their positive attitude, and Davies’ conversion levelled the game.
However, it was typical of Carnegie’s sloppy nature that they immediately fell behind again. Watkins erred embarrassingly, penalised for crawling forward on the ground after claiming the restart, which gifted Williams another easy three points.
But Watkins would atone for that error with a fine assist in the build-up to McColl’s match-winning score.
Yorkshire Carnegie: Elder; Watkins, Forsyth, Burdon, McColl; Lucock (Irvine 72), Davies (Homer 72); Thomas, Newborn, Thraves (Bryce 30), Whetton, Myerscough (Bainbridge 27-Smith 68), West, Mayhew, Beck.
Hartpury RFC: Wilcox; Perkins, Bedlow, Eves, Seabrook; Williams, Cochrane; Murphy, Tanner, Harden (Daniels 62), Edwards, Oakley (Quinn 72), Grieve, Langley, Dyer.
Referee: Hamish Smales (RFU).