Relegation threatened Holt slip to another narrow defeat
- Credit: Archant
Holt suffered the latest in a long line of narrow defeats in a game that was in the balance until the final whistle.
A losing bonus point will be small consolation as they struggle to keep alive their hopes of avoiding relegation.
Holt started unusually strongly and within the first five minutes scored what they will regard as one of the tries of the season. From a line-out the forwards produced a controlled rolling maul that advanced fully 20 metres before quick distribution across the backs gave captain Jim Riley the opportunity to pick his line to score and give Alastair Hughes a straightforward conversion.
Holt then had a player sin-binned and Epping took full advantage, with some crisp inter-passing leading to two tries. The first was scored by prop Clint Dorling and converted by Harry Barnes and the second by wing John Gunnell in the corner.
Place-kickers from both sides were on form on a windless day and a Hughes penalty for Holt was followed by one from Barnes and a second by Hughes, taking the half-time score to 13-15.
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The second half opened quietly until Jim Riley, who was on song all day, made a searing 30 metre break. His kick-ahead was fumbled near the line and a scoring opportunity missed. There was some consolation when Hughes added another penalty to make the score 16-15.
It began to look as though Holt's lighter pack could deliver the home faithful the win they so desperately craved - but sadly it was not to be. Another Barnes penalty was followed by a second try for Dorling who finished off a sustained attack and the visitors were now ahead by seven points with the clock running down.
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However, as has been the case all season, this young Holt side never know they are beaten and some determined play out wide put Hal Riley in for a try. It was the most difficult of conversions and a good effort was not enough to give Holt the draw.
Holt's Woodforde's man-of-the-match was Sandy Shanklin, with Dorling receiving Epping's award. Relegation rivals Ipswich lost away at South Woodham Ferrers who are Holt's next opponents in the battle to retain their current league status. They remain 11 points behind Ipswich with four games left to play.