Hemel Stags suffered a disappointing 38-12 defeat to London Skolars in Good Friday’s derby clash at Pennine Way, writes Ian Henshaw.
This fixture is always the most eagerly anticipated in southern Rugby League and this year it had more edge than usual as Skolars raided their local rivals over the winter, resulting in seven former Hemel players taking on their old team-mates.
To rub salt into the Stags wounds, four of the Skolars’ tries and all seven kicks came from ex-Stags players.
It was Hemel who started the liveliest, taking the lead after just two minutes when Kyal Greene found the Skolars defence missing as he galloped in for four points.
Ben Stead added the two, as Hemel were in control and looked the better of the two teams, but mistakes and ill discipline around the ruck allowed Skolars to get on the front foot.
London scored minutes later as Alex Anthony pounced to cross the line. Lawrence converted to level the scores.
Six minutes later the Skolars took the lead as Hemel fumbled a bobbling ball near their own line, and Mike Bishay took advantage, with Lawrence again converting.
The teams looked very evenly matched and, after Delaney was held up over the line, Stags were perhaps justifiably aggrieved as a Simon Hrbek try was chalked off – a long pass by Delaney being called forward.
Greene was shown a yellow for a high tackle in front of the posts and, as the half-time hooter was about to sound, Skolars chose to take the easy two points.
As in the first half, Hemel started the second period the better side, with heavy pressure eventually breaching the visitors’ line when another pinpoint Delaney pass found BJ Swindells in the corner. Stead’s conversion brought Hemel to within two points.
Skolars increased their lead quickly, though, when a high bomb by Coleman was dropped by Hrbek, and Nash was able to stroll in unopposed. Bishay converted the try.
Another Hemel mistake – a knock-on near their line – allowed Aaron Small to score in the corner, and three minutes later another Stags knock-on was the start of a move ending with former Hemel favourite Eddie Mbaraga touching down. Both of the tries were converted by Bishay.
The last try came with just a minute of the game left, Nash collecting a pass from Small to go over in the corner as Bishay kept up his 100 per cent record with the conversion.
There was just enough time for Swindells to receive a yellow for striking before the hooter went.
Skolars coach Jermaine Coleman said: “I thought we played well in the second half and completed our sets. We knew this was going to be a tough game but everybody turned up for it.”
Hemel Coach Troy Perkins was less happy, though, saying: “That first 15 to 20 minutes was the best we have played all season but then we made too many mistakes and you cannot give away eight penalties in one half and win the game.
“I’m disappointed but there are positives we can work on.”
Hemel Stags: Reece Rance, Jordan Aitchinson, BJ Swindells, Oli Toms. Simon Hrbek, Chad Isles, Ben Stead, Malakhi Lloyd-Jones, James Delaney, Matt Ross, Tala Petelo, Kyal Greene, Luke Paterson. Subs: Mike Stewart, Rhys Bowditch, Liam O’Callaghan, Victor Coker.