WESTHOUGHTON Lions were just one minute from recording a major upset at table-topping Rochdale Cobras, but conceded in the final minute to narrowly lose 40-37.

The Lions now sit comfortably in sixth place, six points behind joint leaders Rochdale and Chester Gladiators, and four points above bottom team, Runcorn.

The Lions made a slow start and after two handling errors Rochdale pounced to open an 8-0 lead within the opening 10 minutes.

Westhoughton scored their first points on 20 minutes. Hooker, Liam Clarke, teased Rochdale’s defensive line before feeding Shaun Markland who burst through to score. Clarke converted the following kick.

The Lions then had Mark Fairclough to thank for giving them the lead with a superb solo effort. The stand-off threw an outrageous dummy before outpacing two men to touch down in the corner.

The game ebbed and flowed with each side enjoying strong spells but Westhoughton secured a half time lead of 14-22 with a fantastic team try.

After Ben Sheelan and Ryan Berry both made yards ahead of the gain line Scott Benyon demonstrated his agility with a mazy run through the defence. He passed to Dan Hill who held off three men to return the ball to Benyon, who rounded one more defender before touching down.

The attacking rugby continued in the second half with both sides gunning for the win.

With less than 15 minutes to go Rochdale reclaimed the lead 34-31, but the Lions refused to lay down.

On 71 minutes Clarke once again took on the Cobras line, releasing Ryan Berry who scored to give Westhoughton a three-point lead.

When the Lions failed to find touch after their sixth tackle in the final minute, Rochdale countered and but for Sheelan forcing a knock-on would have scored.

From the resulting scrum Rochdale turned the ball over and began to attack, the Lions called for crossing but play on was called and the Cobras scored to seal a 40-37 win.

Assistant coach Geoff Sheelan said of the near miss: “The lads were devastated, it is no way to lose a game like that, fair credit to Rochdale they fought to the end and got the win.

“It was a well contested game and I am immensely proud of the lads for the effort and tenacity they put in.”