CHINNOR produced one of their best performances of the season as they struck late to earn a well-deserved draw at a rain-soaked Rosslyn Park.
Caolan Ryan held his nerve to convert Jason Worrall’s try in the last play as the Thame-based side left south-west London with two points.
The performance deserved more, but the way in which Chinnor ensured they avoided defeat at The Rock was pleasing.
In a tight division where momentum is crucial, controlling and more than matching a Park side which started the weekend second in National League 1, ensured the visiting players, coaches, backroom team and supporters were left enthused.
Director of rugby Matt Williams made five changes from the victory over Canterbury.
Full-back Kieran Goss was recalled as Chinnor looked to take advantage of a pacy 4G pitch, while Carl Kirwan, Cameron Gray, Jake Ashby and Josh Hodson were also handed starts.
Willie Ryan, whose wife gave birth to their second child only the previous night, came straight from the hospital to resume at No 8.
Park’s artificial pitch was always going to pose a different challenge, but the slick surface was further lubricated by the rain which did not relent all afternoon.
Handling errors were to be expected, but the quality of the fixture and Chinnor’s performance was made all the more impressive by the conditions it was played in.
Neither side was able to make real headway in the opening half an hour.
Former Chinnor man Craig Holland traded penalties with Laurence May, as the sides were locked at 6-6 after 26 minutes.
But the visitors had been starting to dominate proceedings and control their hosts.
Chinnor thought they had broken through when, after sucking their hosts into the centre of the pitch, the ball was spread wide and Chris Elder’s offload sent Worrall diving over. However, the South African winger was held up as Park managed to keep the visitors out.
They were not to be denied long, though, and Gray latched on to Ehize Ehizode to help his fellow lock drive over for his first try for the club. May converted to make it 13-6 after 32 minutes.
The hosts hit back before the end of the half, but it was only to cut the lead to four points as Holland slotted his third penalty, an offence which resulted in Willie Ryan spending time in the sin bin.
Park started the second period well and moved to within a point as Holland’s good day from the tee continued.
However, Chinnor were given a platform to launch an immediate attack when the restart was knocked on.
Ashby then effectively marshalled the forwards to suck in the hosts and sent No 8 Ryan through a gap to celebrate the new addition to his family with a try. May added the extras to make it 20-12 after 50 minutes.
Park were always going to come back at Chinnor, but the visitors would have rightly felt hard done by to go on to trail 27-20 with 11 minutes to go.
Neville Edwards latched on to a dinked kick over the top to dot down.
Holland, whose conversion attempt hit a post, then added a penalty to level what had become a pulsating fixture.
The hosts were not finished and Hugo Ellis was pushed over, Holland converting, as Park led by seven points.
It was harsh on Chinnor, who deserved so much more for their efforts.
But they were not to be deterred and camped themselves in Park’s half to set up a thrilling final ten minutes.
The hosts were reduced to 14 men when Henry Spencer was yellow-carded, however Chinnor were unable to make the most of two line outs.
A penalty in their favour helped them pin Park on their own try-line, though, as the visitors had a scrum five metres out.
When the ball was finally played following two resets, centre Pete Laverick looked to go flying through an attractive-looking gap, but knocked on in the tackle.
It looked like Chinnor’s chance had gone, but there was to be another opportunity.
Park were penalised at the subsequent scrum which brought cheers from the Chinnor contingent in the stands, who were celebrating moments later.
With only seconds remaining, the ball was played quickly and spread to the right where there was acres of space for Worrall to run into and dive over.
There was only time left for the conversion and Caolan Ryan, who had entered the fray with ten minutes to go, expertly held his nerve as Chinnor deservedly earned a share of the spoils.
Rosslyn Park: Robinson, Howard, Cheeseman, Munro, Edwards, Holland, Gash, Wade, Vaughan-Edwards, Lovell, Spencer, Gillanders, Laventure, A Ellis, H Ellis.
Replacements: Hughes, Traynor, Doran-Jones, Macfarlane, Lewis.
Chinnor: Goss, Worrall, Laverick, Elder, Hodson, May, Ashby, Southworth, Selway, McNulty, Gray, Ehizode, Treviranus, Kirwan, W Ryan.
Replacements: Fidler, George, Manning, C Ryan, Yawayawa.