Hemel Stags made it two wins from two pre-season fixtures as they beat Coventry Bears 28-22 at Butts Park Arena, writes Ian Henshaw.
Coventry took to the field in their first game as a semi-pro club and, at the end of it, they can feel proud of what they have achieved so far.
They certainly pressed Hemel all the way and could easily have come away with the win. Bears coach Tom Tsang said: “I’m proud of the way we played and our fitness work has clearly paid off.”
Hemel coach Troy Perkins added: “I think we were lucky to win, really – Coventry outplayed us but to our credit we dug deep and kept on top.”
Hemel were the first to score when Coventry kicked high at the end of their first set. Full-back Derrell Olpherts caught the ball and set off on a run from his 20-metre line, swerving around two men before passing inside to Woodburn-Hall who finished.
The Bears were not overawed, though, and two minutes later a ball out to the left found Jamahl Hunte who crossed and under the posts – making the conversion easy for Steve Coleman.
However, Olpherts was causing real problems for the Bears with his speed and changes of direction.
Following one of these runs, Eddie M’Baraga thought he had scored but was adjudged to have knocked on while grounding the ball.
Hemel did regain the lead shortly afterwards with a second try for ex-London Broncos man Woodburn-Hall who intercepted a wayward Coventry pass on his own 20- metre line and ran on through the posts. BJ Swindells kicked the first of his four conversions.
It was nip and tuck now, as Boulter went over with ease for Coventry and then Jermaine Coleman pounced on a grubber kick from Lawrence.
It was Coventry who went into the break in front; the impressive Hunte was held up over the line but as the hooter sounded the ball went across the pitch for Medforth to go in on the right. They scored the difficult conversion for a two-point interval lead.
Coventry were straight on the attack in the second half and it took a Jermaine Coleman try-saving tackle to rescue Hemel, before some magic footwork brought a brace of tries for Olpherts.
Hemel seemed to have the game won, but Hunte scored again for Coventry with eight minutes to go; Winfield not making the kick.
When Hunte went over again on the hooter, a draw looked on, but in his eagerness to go nearer the posts he put his foot over the dead ball line – leaving Hemel to consider themselves lucky to come away with the win.