Hemel Stags edged a terrific clash 16-12 in challenging conditions against Coventry Bears at Pennine Way Sports Ground on Sunday.
Half-back Charlie Lawrence made a match winning contribution from the bench with a try and four goals – including a 77th minute penalty after Coventry forward Jack Francis was dismissed following a horrendous tackle on Derrell Olpherts.
“It was great to win because it could have gone either way,” said Hemel coach Troy Perkins, who did not have a clear view of the red card incident.
“In those conditions it was about who could hold on to the ball, play field position and we were a bit better at that today.
“The boys had to dig deep in the second half and defended a lot on our line.”
Hemel were fortunate not to go behind in the opening quarter of the game, but Lawrence crashed over from an attacking scrum and then added the extras for a 6-0 lead on 33 minutes.
Coventry hit back from the restart, with Chris Barratt getting on the end of a flowing move.
Daniel Parker levelled the scores, but Hemel struck just before the break when Matt Ross scooped up a loose ball to score close to the posts.
Lawrence converted then kicked a penalty after a high tackle on 50 minutes for a 14-6 lead.
The Bears hit back when Parker powered over before converting on the hour.
With two points in the game, Lawrence fired the game-clinching penalty after Francis’ challenge on Olpherts.
Stags: Olpherts, Crowther, McNamara, Brown, Hrbek, Woodburn-Hall, Coleman, Ross, Helliwell, Stewart, Mbaraga, Ingarfield, Ljazouli. Subs: (all used) Lawrence, Lloyd-Jones, Coleman, Chester.
Bears: Boulter, Dixon, Bass, Taylor, Hunte, Parker 9, James, Morrison, Hughes, Geurtjens, Thompson, Barratt , Cooper. Subs: (all used) Brown, Hall, Francis, Kelliher.