AN impressive Mirfield Stags fightback proved in vain as early-season pacesetters New Earswick All Blacks edged a closely-contested affair, recording a 31-18 triumph at Hillrich Park.
Mirfield made a slow start to proceedings, allowing the visitors to march into an early 18-point lead.
The Stags rallied, however, and moved to within eight points of levelling matters going into half-time.
But despite scoring again after the break, New Earswick had the final say to maintain their position at the Yorkshire Men’s League summit.
Early penalties against Mirfield forced the first points for the travelling side.
Pressure built from a knock-on was taken advantage of by All Blacks skipper Sean Malarkey for an early lead, with Tom Holmes kicking his first of five conversions.
Despite receiving the ball back numerous times, the Stags were unable to force their way into the opposition half during the opening quarter.
And, following another penalty, forcing the hosts inside their own third yet again, Dean Smith capitalised to double the away side’s advantage.
New Earswick’s third score came courtesy of Sam Cooper down the right side, with Holmes extending his side’s lead to 18-unanswered points.
It was then that the Stags began to gain some momentum.
Mirfield’s first response came via Kieron Blacker, who powered through the defence. Ross Hayden’s conversion reduced the lead to two scores.
Only three minutes later, a James Usher kick-through on the last tackle found full-back Hayden, who touched down.
The Stags suffered a setback early in the second period when a misplaced pass from skipper Nathan Hadfield fell into the path of oncoming attack Tom Barron.
He raced clear to score and Holmes added the extras to make it 24-10 to New Earswick.
Scott Bradley hit back for the Stags, before Danny Howard reduced the arrears to just six points.
However, in the act of trying to seal victory, the All Blacks stole the show.
First came a 74th-minute drop-goal, edging the visitors clear by two scores.
And a last-minute Alex Wilkins touchdown seal the hosts’ arguably undeserved fate.
STAGS: Hayden, Rounding, Muff, Rhodes, Slater, Batty, Usher, Blacker, Hadfield, Shotton, Bradley, Howard, Manning. Subs: Smith, Mather, Green, Scholes.
TRIES: Blacker (34), Hayden (36), Bradley (54), Howard (61).
GOALS: Hayden 1/4.
ALL BLACKS: Coverdale, D Marlarkey, D Smith, Cooper, Barron, Calam, Wagstaff, S Malarkey, Stearman, Blake, Holmes, Carling. Subs: Iddon, C Smith, Stoker, Ritchie.
TRIES: S Malarkey (8), D Smith (14), Cooper (26), Barron (45), Wilkins (80).
GOALS: Holmes 5/5.
DROP-GOALS: Holmes (74).
MAN OF THE MATCH: Phil Shotton
REFEREE: Paul Spivey