Sheffield RUFC have shown extreme resilience to maintain their spot at the top of North One East - and stand-in skipper Tommy Marples believes his determined side can continue their quest for league glory.
Marples, aged 34, said confidence in the Abbeydale Park side was bolstered after a vital try in the last 10 minutes of last weekend’s home win over Pocklington to secure crucial bonus points.
Th 28-19 win was the blue and white’s 20th of the season, and third in a row after a shock 18-17 defeat to league strugglers Old Crossleyans at the end of February.
And the tireless loosehead prop believes that that run will continue after the break when they face fifth placed Percy Park away.
“It is tense in camp at the moment,” Marples said.
“We know we must win every game, with bonus points, to win the league because Ilkley are breathing down our necks. I’ve never known a title race like this.
“Against Pocklington we were 21-19 up with 10 minutes to go and didn’t have that essential fourth try so we threw the kitchen sink at them. This was risky as we could have easily thrown the game away but we had the belief to keep going.
“I decided to go for a scrum rather than a kick close to their try line after substantial pressure with minutes to go and our forward line was outstanding.
“Luckily Jonny France got the ball over the line and we celebrated like we had won the league.
“We can go into the break with a lot of confidence and this needs to be there from the kick off against Percy Park.
“We have to impose ourselves because they are hard to play on their home turf.
“But we have the quality to smash them.”
The Sheffield side will only have one more game to play after facing their next tough opposition after the Easter break; ninth placed West Hartlepool at home.
And the race for the title looks set to go to the wire as Ilkley are nipping at the blue and white’s heels, just one point behind.
Jimmy Pearson, who will be returning as captain, said: “A promotion play-off isn’t an option. We haven’t worked this hard all season to throw the title away now.
“Team spirit is at an all-time high and we have to go out on the pitch and attack and make sure we create confident phases of play.
“Now is the time for clinical and assured finishing.”
Elsewhere in the city, Sheffield Tigers remain on course for possible promotion after beating tricky opposition Morley 22-14 away from home - and collecting bonus points.
The Dore Moor-based side’s 19th win of the season, and tenth in a row, leaves them third in National Three on 97 points - just three points behind Sandal, who occupy the second automatic promotion place.
They face eighth-placed Lymm at home after the Easter break, followed by their last game this league campaign against Burnage away.
And Nick Pearson, the skipper, said: “We have great belief.
“All we can do is put ourselves in the best position come the last blow of the whistle this season.
“We will be ruthless in our goal of getting those maximum 10 points.
“We are disappointed that we threw away some silly points this season but now is the time to finish on a high.
“Lymm and Burnage are mid-table which may suggest that they will be easy opponents - after all, what are they playing for?
“But you can’t have that attitude because they are playing for pride and will want to end their seasons strongly.”