Towcestrians suffered late play-off heartbreak as Chard scored a last-gasp penalty try to deny Tows promotion from South West One East.
Having finished second in the league, Tows teetered on the brink of promotion in a hard-fought and engrossing encounter against the Somerset side, leading 18-15 with minutes remaining, but a late penalty try saw Chard to a 22-18 victory and promotion to National League 3 South-West.
The game displayed two contrasting rugby styles as Chard used their muscular pack in a forward battle while a lighter and more agile Tows looked to keep the ball moving.
The home side’s style proved its worth in the early stages when the home team stunned the visitors with quick hands and Marc Yeates, tackled just short of the line, managed a backward stretch to dot down, with James Falvey slotting the conversion.
Chard came back with vigour and for the first time this season, Tows found themselves under pressure in the scrum against the well-drilled visiting forwards, who turned the screw and dived over.
Tows remained on the back foot and an immense effort was needed to prevent going behind, but eventually Chard’s pressure told as their forwards sucked in defenders and allowed their left wing to spring on a loose ball close to the try line and score out wide.
Towcester’s backs kept the game close, looking dangerous when in possession and after a break from Charlie Barker, Craig Holten was left free to score, only for the visitors to regain the lead on the half-time thanks to a penalty.
The second half saw a determined Tows effort and they spent long periods on the front foot, coming agonisingly close to Chard’s line several times but had only two Falvey penalties to show for their pressure.
That put Tows into a slender lead heading into the final minutes, but Chard’s first visit to the home half presented their pack with a chance to demonstrate their strength. Electing to scrum a penalty, they managed a huge last effort to force a penalty try from referee James Bullock and grab promotion, much to the joy of the travelling support.