HEMEL Stags were edged out 32-26 at second-placed Kippax in what in what proved to be the game of the season so far.
Both packs impressed, with Lee Williamson, Adam Biscomb and Craig Jones outstanding for Kippax, and Martyn Smith and Max Edwards equally as good for Hemel.
The visitors made all the early running and were rewarded with two tries – one from Edwards, who used all his strength to get over from close range, and the other from winger Ashley Fyson who crossed in the corner despite the attention of Stuart Biscomb and Andy Matthews.
Ryan Butcher, though, was off target with both conversion attempts and once Kippax got the ball they began to cause Hemel problems.
They were soon rewarded for their efforts as strong-running forward Steve Scott made a break down the touchline before feeding Andy Matthews on his inside for an easy score.
Man of the match Andy Speake was off target with his conversion attempt, and missed again five minutes after James Cryer touched down following a delightful chip from debutante Aaron Dobek.
Kippax were beginning to get on top but a grubber kick from Hemel’s Chris Redfearn went straight to Butcher who raced 60 metres for a breakaway try which he also converted to cut the deficit.
Kippax came out of the blocks quickly in the second period and were on the scoreboard within a minute when Cryer again profited from a Dobek kick to capitalise on hesitancy in the Stags defence and score.
Speake was again off target with the extras, and Hemel increased their lead to eight points when lively hooker Smith went over from close range, with Butcher goaling.
Kippax lost full-back Redfearn with a rib injury but then enjoyed their best spell of the game, scoring 20 points in as many minutes to establish a big lead.
Matthews scored his second try after a chip through from Dobek was fumbled, and this was soon followed by a Paul Brown effort.
Stuart Biscomb got on the end of a low Speake kick to extend the lead to eight points, and Scott wrapped up the victory when he charged through for a deserved try.
Stags had the last word when Edwards burst clear from 30 metres to score and secure the bonus point the Hemel side’s efforts deserved.