Fly-half Howell held his nerve to calmly slot over a difficult kick from the right and give his side a 25-24 victory over the University of Exeter VI team in the BUCS Western Conference final at Cross-in-Hand.
Plymouth’s win had looked unlikely with 20 minutes to go as they trailed 24-8 and they could have been further behind had Exeter taken their chances and also not had a try disallowed in the first half.
But in the final quarter the hosts suddenly came to life and once they got some momentum their Exeter opponents were unable to hand it.
Howell’s successful kick led to scenes of joy as his team-mates jumped on him while Exeter’s players just looked stunned.
The visitors had dominated the first half and led 14-0 at the break. Plymouth did not have many chances in the opening 40 minutes. Their only real chance to put on any points on the board came with a penalty in the 27th minute but Howell missed that one.
However, within two minutes of the second half, Plymouth did get on the board when prop Will Bailey squeezed over in the left corner to make it 14-5.
But the Exeter side, known as the Flairs, responded quickly as the rain got heavier. Seconds after having a second try of the game ruled out they scored from a five-metre scrum to make it 21-5.
Howell kicked a penalty in the 54th minute before Exeter cancelled that out with one of their own six minutes later.
Exeter did not look in too much trouble at that point, but a good try by dangerous full-back Harrison Coonock in the 67th minute totally changed the game.
Howell converted that effort from the left and Plymouth suddenly sensed they could do it, even though they were still two scores behind and time was running out.
In the last minute of normal time they made it a one score game when powerful centre Tom Davies managed to get the ball down despite having two players on him.
There was nine minutes of injury time for Plymouth to try and get a winner.
The hosts kicked for touch and Plymouth went on the attack from the line-out. Both teams knew that time was up but Exeter gave away a penalty. It was not an easy kick – it was a around 30 metres out on the right touchline – however after discussions with his colleagues Howell decided to go for it and, much to his team-mates delight, he slotted the ball through the uprights to win the game for his team.
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