DARRYL Banton dissected the posts with the last kick of the game to secure Burton a valuable bonus point at Hereford – and maintain second spot in Midlands One West.
Such was the hosts’ confidence that partway through the second half they tweeted: “The Reds only need one more try to give us a five-point win and take us above Burton into second.”
That optimism came after a converted try towards the start of the second period which put Hereford 21-3 ahead.
But two tries from Sam Benjamin, one converted, plus Banton’s last-gasp kick for three points, clinched an invaluable point for the visitors.
Burton kicked off and winger Dewi Williams tackled the catcher before a frenetic opening two minutes were played out in the Hereford half.
The Crofters imposed themselves at the first two scrums, and soon were asking question through Loz Betty, Liam Hucknell, Damon Varney and Matt Boden.
On seven minutes Banton slotted over a penalty to give the visitors the early lead.
It was then Burton’s turn to defend and they held firm until the 21st minute when Hereford attacked in centre-field, and superbly exploited a dog-leg in defence to score under the posts and move 7-3 ahead.
Burton were then given a penalty which Ian Gilmour drilled to within five metres of the Hereford line
The ball was spun out to Benjamin, who had made a diagonal run from right to left, but was unable to control the ball as he attempted to touch down.
Hereford cleared their lines and then repeatedly kicked for touch to pin Burton back, until Ben Cook stole a five-metre line-out.
Matt Tivey and Boden both made ground before a penalty chance came for Banton.
The ball slid wide to the clear delight of the home faithful – and they were soon buoyed by a second try.
After stout defence from Burton, with Craig Dutton and James Burrough prominent, Hereford fielded a clearance kick and moved the ball quickly to the left wing before running round under the posts.
The simple conversion made it 14-3 and was the last notable action before the break. Varney was injured in the process of Hereford claiming their second try, and replaced by Jono Parkinson.
After the break Hereford’s kick-off went straight out, giving Burton a scrum.
However, disaster then struck and in the blink of an eye the home side exploited the blind-side and extended their lead to 18 points.
Hereford were playing with real confidence at that point and things looked ominous for Burton.
Will Brooks then replaced Joe Gazzard in the second row. From broken play near halfway Banton managed to hack the ball forward and Gilmour came close to scoring.
A five-metre scrum was awarded to Burton and after three re-sets Hereford seized the advantage – for the first time all day – and broke clear.
A kick and chase from Hereford then went dead in what proved to be the last time the hosts really threatened.
Betty and Benjamin led the charge as Burton took play to within five metres.
The visitors were unable to score until a long pass from Gilmour reached Benjamin, who somehow then managed to squeeze in at the right hand corner.
Banton sent the conversion over and Burton trailed by 11 points going into the last quarter.
With Charl Neethling on at loose head for Tom Murphy, a 30-metre break from Betty took play into the Hereford half before he off-loaded to the explosive Benjamin who touched down in the corner.
Agonisingly, Banton’s kick struck the upright to keep Hereford at arm’s length.
Burton then conceded a series of penalties and Hereford looked to finish off the visitors as they moved on to 24 points.
Tom Harris stole a line-out to relieve the pressure, while a further attack was repelled before Burton made their way into the Hereford half of the field.
As a scrum went round 90 degrees, Burton were awarded the put-in and subsequently a penalty.
Banton faced a 35-metre straight kick – and struck it beautifully to make the final score 24-18 in Hereford’s favour, with the whistle blowing immediately after.
Burton remain second in the league by a point with a game in hand.
Meanwhile, runaway leaders Lichfield have already secured promotion, while fourth-placed Walsall have moved to within six points of Burton.
In Midlands One East Derby slipped up at Kettering. They remain second, 20 points behind Peterborough Lions and 12 ahead of Bugbrooke with all three sides having four games to play.