Hertfordshire Stags opened their RFU National U20 Championship season with a narrow win over Surrey at Allianz Park on Sunday.
Having taken an early 15-point lead, the Stags stayed in the lead until Surrey went ahead by two points with seven minutes to go.
However, with only three minutes left, the Stags hit back with a converted try to win the match.
The Stags probably should not have left it that late to clinch the victory, but a combination of lack of team-work, a rather frantic approach by individuals, and some sloppy tackling allowed Surrey to stay in the game.
In addition the Stags were under the cosh in the scrums for much of the game, but the balance of power changed when both side made replacements and the Stags won two against the head in the closing quarter.
The lines out were much better throughout, where plenty of good ball was won including a number off Surrey’s throw.
The Stags took the early imitative and scored two tries in the first 10 minutes or so.
Firstly they kicked for a lineout from a Surrey scrum infringement and, from the line out, they drove lock Harry Peterkin over the line for a try converted by Tim Bitirim.
Within minutes of the restart, full-back Bitirim made a break and, when stopped, the Stags recycled for skipper Scott Glyn to touch down.
Before the first quarter was complete, Bitirim added a penalty to give the Stags a 15-point lead.
Surrey hit back, partly due to their scrum superiority, and the Stags were soon under pressure on their line.
The Stags no 8 was sent to the sin bin and, after another couple of scrum penalties, Surrey were rewarded with a penalty try converted by Tudor Forbes.
The Stags failed to secure the restart and, from the resulting scrum, Surrey put away their full-back Jamie Beighton, who brushed off attempted tackles to score.
On the stroke of half-time Surrey had a chance to equal the score but the penalty attempt went wide.
Although still in trouble at the scrums, the Stags had the best of the opening exchanges of the second half and calmer heads would have brought rewards.
As it was, the closest they got in the first quarter was when, having crossed the line, they were penalised for playing the ball on the floor after a tackle.
As the changes were made in the front rows, the scrums stabilised and that enable No 8 James Thacker to pick up at the back of the scrum, break and put centre Glyn over the line for his second try.
The Stags lost the ball on the half way near the touch line following the restart and Surrey wing Bamdele Fadahum kicked ahead, regathered and scored to close the gap to three points.
With 10 minutes to go it was all to play for and is wasn’t long before Surrey took the lead when Chris Starns broke through in midfield to touch down.
Then, with only three minutes remaining, Stags wing Luc Lee broke along the touch line from the 22 and touched down.
With Bitirim adding the conversion the Stags were 27-22 ahead and, minutes after the Stags had won a scrum against the head, the final whistle went.
The Stags will play their next pool game at Tabard on February 28, kick off 2pm, when they entertain Eastern Counties.
Hertfordshire: Tim Bitirim (Harpenden); Julian Manieson (Chess Valley), Scott Glynn (Cheshunt) (Capt), Brandon Bowden (Bishop’s Stortford), Luc Lee (Fullerians); Johnathon Wicks (Cheshunt), Alex Patton (Bishop’s Stortford); George Hogan (Bishop’s Stortford), Will Moore (Bishop’s Stortford), Marcus Brown (Bishop’s Stortford), James Apperley (Bishop’s Stortford), Harry Peterkin (Welwyn), Foster Kavanagh (Old Albanian), Bradley Moreton (Bishop’s Stortford), James Thacker (Bishop’s Stortford).
Replacements – all used: Michael Bond (Hertford), Ben law (Bishop’s Stortford), Lee Boss (Fullerians), Jack Smith (Hatfield Queen Elizabeth), Teddy King (Bishop’s Stortford), Joe Stockwell (Barnet Elizabethans), Ben Rawinski (Oaklands Coll).