The 1st XV battled their way to what could be a critically important win in their fight to avoid relegation when they beat London Exiles 10-12 in Barnes yesterday in a nail-biting finish when a penalty in the dying seconds could have denied them the precious points their efforts deserved writes Brian Seeney.

The referee's whistle blew for full time immediately after Exiles missed a kickable penalty which brought a collective sigh of relief from the Gos players and the handful of supporters there to cheer them on, putting a rarely seen smile on the face of Head Coach Barry Bridgman.

"That was a relieved smile," said Bridgman as helicopters clattered away overhead covering the nearby University Boat Race.

"We made very, very hard work of that but we got the win in the end.

"There was plenty of dog and there was no lack of will there but the technical aspects of our game weren't so good and we were way off today.

"But the try at the end off the scrum was a really good try. We were held up and I was thinking maybe a yellow card was going to come because there was a bit of skulduggery (by Exiles) going on there.

"All that matters is that we got four points out of it. I would liked to have got five points but when you look at it, this was never a four-try game for either side.

"It was dire old rugby at times but credit to our players who turned up today and did the job we needed.

"We've come away to a team that had a good start to the season even though we beat them at home and have tailed off, so we probably caught them at the right time today.

"They played to their strengths and did well in broken play and kicked well in the first half. In the second half we worked with that much better.

"We were lucky they didn't have a goal kicker because we would have lost if they had."

Exiles ShepherdTry2 WEB

The try that won it - Sean Shepherd scores for a second time against London Exiles. Picture: Chris Roberts. More pictures in the Photo Gallery shortly.

Gos trailed to a 13th minute penalty until the second minute of first half time added on when returning no. 8 Sean Shepherd scored the first of his two tries in the game and fly half Sam Foster converted.

Gos were caught napping just two minutes into the second half when Exiles scored a converted try thanks to some indifferent defensive tackling.

But they battled and then battered away with a late game surge and on 74 minutes, after being correctly adjudged to have been held up over the Exiles try line three times, Shepherd grabbed his second try.

Ten minutes later and the kick that could have snatched a precious victory and a first double of the season away from Gos, failed miserably. The referee brought an immediate end to a tense and mistake-ridden match where all that mattered to Gos was the win.

Defeats for Andover (13-50 at home to Twickenham) and a 24-17 loss for Winchester at Effingham & Leatherhead helped the Gos relegation survival battle because now Winchester with 30 points can't catch Gos.

Gos have 44 points and two more from their three remaining games will ensure they avoid the bottom two places.

"It's a good thing for us that two out of the bottom three teams lost which helps our cause a bit," said Bridgman.

"I think two points from three games will do us depending on what happens with the other teams below us.

"It underlines how very important it was to get that win (at Exiles). Winchester can't catch us but others can so it is still all to play for."

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