Syston RFC slipped to their seventh straight defeat at Lichfield on Saturday to remain firmly rooted to the bottom of National League Three (Midlands).
The visitors knew they had to force a result against a side just two places above them in the table to revive their flagging survival bid, but fell behind to a penalty after five minutes, having missed the chance to go ahead through Adam Nunney’s penalty attempt from 40 metres.
Syston went down to 14 men when their hooker Craig Lockington was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on and Lichfield capitalised with a converted try.
But the away side gave themselves a lifeline on the stroke of half-time when fly-half James Morgan saw space behind the defence and chipped ahead.
Morgan took advantage of a kind bounce to get his fingertips to the ball first over the try line and touch down. He successfully converted to cut the deficit to 10-7.
Lichfield then had to play most of the second half when Ollie Savage was penalised for a high tackle and shown a red card.
But this seemed to spur the hosts who added a converted try after five minutes and then scored again when a Syston clearing kick was charged down.
Trailing 22-7 with just over 20 minutes left, Syston were allowed a way back as Lichfield took their foot off the gas.
Despite having their flanker Jamie Skeritt sin-binned for a ruck infringement, one of Syston’s replacement forwards muscled his way over for an unconverted score following several tight forward phases on the Lichfield line.
Syston were then handed their third yellow card of the day when scrum-half Alex Cavinor was sin-binned for not being 10 metres following a quick tap-and-go penalty.
Again, this seemed to help Syston more than it did the hosts and they found themselves deep inside Lichfield’s 22.
After more sustained pressure on Lichfield’s line, the visitors drew the defence in and scored out wide from five metres out through their winger Eddie Lorriman to trail 22-17 with just over five minutes to go.
But Lichfield’s defence held strong in a tense finale, to leave Syston 20 points from safety.
On Saturday they host 10th-placed Longton (kick-off 2.15pm).