OLD Halesonians head off into the Christmas break following a hard fought 29-23 success at Newport to leave themselves right in the thick of the National League 3 Midlands title race.

The lead continually changed hands throughout the game and Hales didn’t seal victory until four minutes from time when Tom Jordan forced his way over from a driving maul.

Hales had to disrupt their front row with hooker Pete Fitzgerald and prop Tom Dempsey ruled out with illness and injury, while Ben Trinham started at scrum-half in place of the suspended Nathan Jones.

Fly-half Steve Powell kicked Hales ahead with a penalty before Newport replied with two of their own to lead 6-3.

Jon Deeks came off the bench to help secure the scrum and from resulting good ball, winger Luke Smith created the gap for opposite wing Joe Oxford to bulldoze his way over and Powell converted to put Hales 10-6 ahead.

Newport hit back with a converted pushover try, but Hales went 17-13 in front when Smith sprinted clear to score under the posts and Powell added the extras.

Determined Newport refused to lie down and responded with a well worked converted try of their own to go 20-17 in front.

Powell then plundered a third Hales try with a loop move to put Hales back in front again, but another Newport penalty put them 23-22 ahead with time running out.

With the final whistle looming, Hales gathered possession and set up a driving maul from which flanker Jordan secured the winning and bonus point try which Powell converted.

Hales return to action on January 4 when they host a huge game at Wassell Grove with league leaders Nuneaton the visitors.

The Second snapped up a slender 17-12 success over their Bournville counterparts, while the Thirds overwhelmed Wednesbury’s second string 62-7.