Shaw Cross Sharks put in a battling performance but they were edged out 30-20 in a fiery National Conference League Division One encounter at Oulton Raiders last Saturday.
Casey Johnson was sent off in a fierce clash which saw a further four yellow cards handed out in the first half.
At one point Sharks were down to just 10 men, but fought on to give Oulton a tough game.
Sharks had the better of the early exchanges but couldn’t make the most of their pressure, with Zach Johnson coming closest when he was held up over the line.
Instead it was Oulton who got the first points, as Dom Flanagan found a gap to score and Jordan Gale kicked the first of his five conversions.
Shaw Cross got themselves back in the game when Shaun Squires put in a brilliant high kick to the right corner and Nathan Wright leapt highest to catch and ground.
They were unable to add the conversion to level matters and the Sharks fell further behind as Kieron Walpole crossed to give the home side an eight point lead.
From there tempers were firing with two incidents that both led to multiple cards being shown.
The first saw a player from each side sent to the bin by the referee, including Eddie Medforth for the Sharks.
The referee did the same after the second, with Zach Johnson receiving a yellow card for the Sharks and then brandished red to Casey Johnson.
Despite the disadvantage it was the Sharks who made the most of the open pitch with two tries to lead at half-time.
Oulton dropped the ball and Sam Ottewell gathered and held off chasers on an 80 metre run to the line for a wonderful try.
Another quality move saw Squires break through the defence before offloading to Paul March and he found Wright in support to score his second try of the match and put Shaw Cross 14-12 up at the break.
The Sharks continued their impressive spell as another Squires kick to Wright was knocked back for Medforth to score. Squires’ conversion put them 20-12 up but the final half hour belonged to the Raiders.
The first of three unanswered tries came from a break by Danny McIntosh, who found Gale in support to score.
Josh Lancaster crossed to give Oulton the lead, before Chris Hope sealed victory with a try at the corner.
Despite defeat, Sharks coach Zach Johnson described his side’s performance as their best of the season, saying: “The way we actually impacted the game, was probably the best we’ve played.
“I know we didn’t actually get the win and it might sound a little bit funny, but for me there were real positives in there which I’m happy to build on.
“We went down to 10 men at one point and originally it didn’t make a massive impact. We actually scored in that period but I think throughout the game fatigue set in and the lads had a lot of work to do so that puts a lot of strain on the rest of the lads.”
On his brother Casey’s dismissal, Zach added: “I think Casey has run in there to stick up for his teammate and his brother, which I don’t condone but I want the lads to stick up for each other in that situation.
“We will put an appeal forward and hopefully there will be no repercussions.”