HOLDERS Lovat retained shinty's Lovat Cup in the annual New Year fixture on Monday after a 2-2 draw at Braeview Park.
The young Lovat side looked like they would concede the trophy to their rivals for the first time since 2007 as, with less than 15 minutes remaining, Beauly held a 2-0 lead and were on course to upset the odds.
However, a late double by 2009 Marine Harvest Under-17 player-of-the-year Greg Matheson changed the outcome and left Beauly reflecting on what might have been.
In front of the usual large crowd, Beauly created considerably more scoring opportunities than their Premier Division opponents, exposing a fragile Lovat defence on numerous occasions, however the North Division One side were punished for not making the most of their chances.
Beauly took a 25th minute lead when full centre David MacLean fired a thunderous 30-yard drive high in to Lovat keeper Stuart MacDonald's net after failing to connect with his initial swing. This was to be one of the few shots on target at either end during the opening 45 minutes.
On the hour mark, the Lovat forward line eventually managed to carve out a clear cut scoring opportunity when Fraser Gallagher's clever short pass was played in to Greg Matheson's path but the teenager was brought down before he could finish and referee Deek Cameron had no hesitation in awarding a penalty.
Scotland under-21 cap James MacPherson stepped up to take the spot hit, but drove the ball wide of Martin Davidson's goal.
Lovat's despair plummeted new depths five minutes later when Beauly's lead was doubled.
Marc MacLachlan, who was causing all sorts of problems for Lovat full back Martin Bell, was chopped down by Bell outside the penalty area. From the resultant free hit, the ball was slipped to the unmarked MacLachlan, who finished clinically to give Beauly a two-goal lead.
Tension then got the better of Beauly substitute Dave Neilsen and Lovat wing back Drew Howie when the two former Inverness and Fort William players became involved in an altercation which left the referee with little option other than to red card both offenders.
As the game entered its final quarter of an hour, Lovat began to look more purposeful and got their reward when the ball broke to Greg Matheson, who slipped it past Davidson from close range.
Lovat knew that another goal would be good enough to retain the silverware and a wave of attacks followed forcing the Beauly rearguard in to desperate measures.
As so often happens in this derby clash, a late goal decided the outcome and Matheson became the toast of Kiltarlity in stoppage time when he found himself one-on-one with Davidson to calmly slot the ball past the out rushing keeper to the delight of the Balgate faithful.
Lovat skipper Euan Ferguson was presented with the trophy by Lovat Fraser family member, Kim Fraser.
l More shinty on page 28.