CHINNOR dug deep to claim an impressive victory at Cinderford and move up to fourth in National League 1.
The Oxfordshire side recorded back-to-back bonus point wins in the third tier of English rugby as they earned their first success on the road since the opening day.
Tries from Josh Hodson (2), Will Harries and Luc Jeannot put Chinnor 24-18 in front after 57 minutes.
But the hosts came back strongly and the visitors were forced to resist phase after phase of pressure for a quarter of an hour.
Cinderford did eventually break through Chinnor’s dogged defence but, crucially, Stefan Hawley was unable to convert fellow replacement James Dean’s try as they still trailed by a point.
The Oxfordshire side then set about killing the game off in the remaining few moments.
Will Flinn’s try went a long way to doing that, extending Chinnor’s lead to eight points, before they expertly saw out the final minutes.
Director of rugby Matt Williams made eight changes, one positional, from the bonus-point win over Bishops Stortford.
Nick Selway and Josh McNulty returned in the front row, with Cameron Gray starting at lock, Ofisa Treviranus at blindside flanker and Willie Ryan moving to No 8.
Scrum-half Flinn, winger Hodson and full-back Harries also came into the XV.
Chinnor headed into the contest in high spirits, but they made a slow start.
After just a minute they lost centre Pete Laverick, who was forced off with a head injury following a meaty collision.
This resulted in an early reshuffle, with Jason Worrall moved to 13, Harries to the right wing and Caolan Ryan coming on at full-back.
The visitors struggled to get into the game and Cinderford deservedly led 6-0 after 11 minutes, thanks to two penalties from fly-half James Butler.
It had been a far from pretty affair, with the ball seemingly spending more time in the air than on the ground, but Chinnor surprisingly went in front six minutes later.
Caolan Ryan was instrumental as he broke through a gap, catching Cinderford completely flat footed, and raced over half-way. He drew full-back Ed Sheldon before sending Hodson over the try line for his first score of the season. May added the extras to make it 7-6.
In all honesty, the hosts would have been scratching their heads at how they found themselves behind, but they soon took control.
Chinnor were still struggling to get a foothold in the game and Cinderford made their territory count to score two tries in the space of eight minutes.
A driving line-out led to hooker Nathan Taylor going over on 29 minutes, before a quick ball sent winger Sam Smith racing through and under the posts. Butler converted the latter to make it 18-7.
Chinnor could have easily played out the remaining minutes of the half without purpose, but they gave themselves a platform for the second period.
With time elapsed, they continued to try to force their way over, before the ball was spread wide and Worrall chucked a miss-pass for former Wales international Harries to go over in the corner. May was unable to convert from the touchline, but the visitors now only trailed by six points.
Potentially buoyed by how they finished the first period, Chinnor upped their game after the break.
Just three minutes had passed when they scored their third try, all of which had arguably been the only highlights in an ugly affair.
The ball was worked to the left where Caolan Ryan was instrumental again. He ran a wide diagonal line before popping the ball back inside for Treviranus, who showed a fine turn of pace and sent Hodson over for his second. May added the extras to put Chinnor 19-18 in front.
Suddenly, the visitors were controlling the game and they extended their lead to 24-18 after 57 minutes when prop Luc Jeannot forced his way over for an unconverted try.
But just when Chinnor looked to be in charge, Cinderford were not finished.
An unstoppable rolling maul rumbled towards the try line, but referee Sara Cox deemed the ball had been held up.
The visitors continued to stand firm as Cinderford attempted to barge their way over and they were unsuccessful out wide too as Caolan Ryan was first to Hawley’s desperate kick over the top.
The pressure did not stop, though, and Chinnor continued to put their bodies on the line in a heroic defensive display.
However, successive penalties ensured Cinderford remained within ten metres and the home supporters leapt up in celebration on 72 minutes when a pile of bodies went crashing over. Most importantly, referee Cox’s arm remained by her side.
Eventually, the pressure took its toll as Dean was driven over with five minutes to go.
Suddenly, there were flashbacks of the cruel defeat at Rams a fortnight previously, but Hawley dragged his conversion attempt wide of the right-hand post as Chinnor still led 24-23.
There was to be no heartache for the Oxfordshire side as they instead went on to put the result beyond doubt.
Replacement Matt Marley did brilliantly to turn over possession, which sent Chris Elder rampaging forward. Now Cinderford were defending their own try line and they could do nothing to stop Flinn darting over, May converting, as Chinnor made it 31-23.
The rest of the match was played out in the visitors’ half.
Hawley missed a penalty as Cinderford looked for a consolatory losing bonus-point, before Chinnor expertly kept possession as they ran down the clock.
Cinderford: Sheldon, Smith, Mansfield, Hayes, Bogue, Butler, Frame, Smart, Taylor, Brockett, Evans, Lemon, Gilbert, Mullis, Lane.
Replacements: Elliot, Jerrum, Beer, Hawley, Dean.
Chinnor: Harries, Worrall, Laverick, Elder, Hodson, May, Flinn, Fidler, Selway, McNulty, Thomas, Gray, Treviranus, Kirwan, W Ryan.
Replacements: Southworth, Jeannot, Ehizode, Marley, C Ryan.