BRACKNELL RFC suffered a shock 27-26 home defeat as Hornets gave themselves a survival lifeline.

An expected win for Dan Ap Dafydd’s men against a side one place off the bottom would have put their own South West Premier relegation worries to bed.

But the hosts fell well below par and were 27-0 down before a late surge almost snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

Saturday’s surprise loss at Lily Hill Park was not the first time Bracknell have been stung by the Hornets this season, having crashed 42-17 in the away fixture.

But it was certainly a missed opportunity to build on their 38-12 home win over rock-bottom Lydney a week earlier and virtually secure their place in the division for next season with four games to go.

Now, the pressure will be back on 10th-placed Bracknell when they travel to Devon to face 12th-placed Ivybridge for a rearranged fixture this Saturday (2.30pm).

Ap Dafydd’s men will need to avoid defeat at the very least against a side just four points behind as their last three games are against Maidenhead, Brixham and Newton Abbott, who are all in the top five.

They will certainly need to start better than they did against Hornets whose early pressure was rewarded with a try from Courtney Harris, converted by Jordan Humphris.

Bracknell simply weren’t at the races and they coughed up possession each time they worked their way into a threatening position.

They fell further behind midway through the first half when prop Ben Reseigh ripped the ball from the hosts at the line-out before crossing the line.

The visitors extended their lead with a Humphris penalty then Bracknell saw Ross MacDougall sin binned, with Humphris slotting the resulting penalty to leave the hosts trailing 20-0 at the break.

It got even worse for Bracknell after the restart when Harris burst over for his second try of the day, with Humphris adding the extras for a 27-0 lead.

That was the start of a rousing Bracknell fightback and, with Hornets down to 14 men, they notched a desperately-needed try through substitute Vic Hardwicke.

The hosts chipped further away at the lead when they were awarded a penalty try with five minutes remaining after referee Alex Marsh spotted a Hornets player had deliberately knocked the ball into touch after Juite Tupua had been held up just short of the line.

A pulsating finish saw Bracknell notch two further tries, Guiseppe Salustri scoring under the posts after a powerful break. Hardwick drop-kicked the conversion to save time.

And from the final play of the game Bracknell kept the ball alive with a number of offloads before MacDougall dotted down under the posts, with Hardwicke drop-goalling the conversion again.

But Bracknell ran out of time and had to be content with two bonus points, with Hornets collecting four.

Head coach Ap Dafydd offered no excuse for his side’s lacklustre display: “The two bonus points hides the fact that we did not perform,” he admitted.

“Too many of the lads did not turn up, but we hung in there and managed to get something out of the day.”

Bracknell: Mirza, Clarke (c), Ovens, Bailey, Goodison, Salustri, Sanderson, Halaufia, MacDougall, Laidler, Tipua, Nacamavutu, Burch, Wilson, Hills. Reps: Cotterell, Hadad, Hardwicke.

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