SECOND-HALF tries from Lawrence Betty and Jono Parkinson proved key as Burton clinched victory over Derby in Saturday’s pulsating promotion play-off at Peel Croft, with the result in doubt right up to the final whistle.
The Crofters will now join Lichfield and Peterborough in National League Three Midlands to cap off a superb season.
With Peel Croft packed the rafters, Derby were first to put points on the board with a penalty just three minutes after kick-off.
Burton soon hit back as Darryl Banton dissected the uprights for 3–3 on five minutes.
Derby’s kick-off failed to find touch and Burton took the ball over halfway, only for the visitors to steal the ball.
A knock-on gave the ball back to Burton. Tom Harris found himself under pressure, but he was supported by Dewi Williams who cleared the ball into touch.
Derby won the line-out and with intense pressure found themselves heading forward with their No.8 Tom Taylor-Dawes scoring a try. The successful conversion put Derby 10-3 up.
The Crofters again struck back minutes later with a try from second row Will Roach – converted by Banton.
Both sets of forwards threw everything they had into the game, resulting in some huge hits and tackles, with neither side giving an inch.
Derby were penalised for taking too long at a line-out which appeared to faze the visitors.
As tempers threatened to boil over the referee spoke to both captains on 20 minutes to try and calm matters down.
Some good clean line-out work by Burton saw opportunities presented to the backs, with great runs from Ian Gilmour, Dewi Williams and Jack Brooks.
However, Derby looked to shackle Burton centre Betty – giving him little chance to shine.
At half-time the score was 10–10, with all to play for in the second period.
The Crofters enjoyed a strong start, but an incident saw Tom Harris shown the yellow card and forced to leave the field for 10 minutes.
With the numerical advantage Derby were awarded a penalty and made the kick to move 13-10 ahead.
With 20 minutes remaining Burton scored a great try from Betty to put the hosts in front for the first time in the match.
Harry Titley set up the score, and was close to claiming the points himself after being stopped just short of the line.
Banton added the extras, before the Crofters missed a penalty opportunity to add a further three points.
Derby then began to make some silly mistakes and were reduced to 14 men after one of their players received a yellow card.
Burton were awarded a penalty which they kicked into touch. The hosts won the line-out. Ian Gilmour and Tom Murphy were both involved before Derby claimed possession – only to then knock on.
The hosts moved the ball quickly in a bid to score a try, only for the referee to call play back.
The Crofters used the time to regroup – and found themselves in a better position as Parkinson scored the hosts’ third try of the day.
Banton again converted to extend the lead to 24-13 with only a few minutes of the match remaining.
Burton appeared to have the win in the bag, but Derby refused to throw in the towel.
The visitors scored a converted try in the dying minutes to move within one further try of victory.
But time was against Derby, and Burton successfully saw out the final seconds.