Huddersfield Underbank Rangers 22 Hemel Stags 26
HEMEL Stags made it an incredible 12 wins on the spin as they retained their 100 per cent record with a narrow victory over Huddersfield Underbank Rangers.
Both teams went into the clash having won each of their opening 11 RFL Conference Three games of the season, and it was Stags who took a vital step in the title-race as they edged an eight-try thriller.
The Stags had threatened to be out of sight as they opened up an 18-0 lead at the break, but Rangers battled hard after the interval and came within touching distance of snatching an unlikely draw late on.
Hemel opened the scoring with a try early in the contest – Huddersfield’s Courtney Allette dropping a kick over his own line which allowed Luke Watling to pounce on the loose ball and score. Stags’ Ryan Butcher added the extras.
An even 20 minutes of play followed, before it appeared Allette had rectified his earlier mistake by touching down in the corner.
However, home cheers were quickly silenced when the touch judge ruled the winger’s foot to be on the sideline as he went over.
The decision riled Rangers’ Jay Senior, and Hemel took advantage after he was sent to the sin bin for dissent.
First, Barry John Swindells latched on to Watling’s long pass and raced over the line unopposed, before an impressive dash from Nick Wong provided Hemel with a comfortable lead at the break.
Clearly unhappy with their first half display, Huddersfield came out with renewed vigour after the interval, and Nick Briggs quickly got the hosts on the board as he rose highest to collect Richard Knight’s last-tackle kick at the start of the second half.
Dave Afreh regained Stags’ three-try margin by finishing a dazzling last-play move between the posts, but Rangers hit back with three tries in an impressive 13-minute spell to set up a gripping finale to the contest.
Knight again caused problems with a high kick, allowing Will Midgeley to go over, before player/coach Knight bagged a deserved try of his own.
Stags halted the hosts’ momentum with a Butcher penalty and, despite a last-minute try from Midgley, Hemel held on to record the important victory.
Stags’ Seb Ward was named man of the match.
Next up for Stags is a trip to Coventry Bears on Saturday, and the Hemel side are firm favourites to continue their hot run of form.
Stags picked up a crushing 32-6 win when the two sides met earlier this season, and currently sit three places and 15 points clear of the Bears.