Hemel Stags will be looking to bounce back to form when they take on Oxford in the Challenge Cup third round at Pennine Way on Sunday
Hemel were on the end of a 34-0 hammering at Swinton in the iPro Sport Cup last week but coach Troy Perkins took some positives out of the performance. “It served a purpose,” he said. “We know we’re a fair bit off those top teams, we were on the back foot for long periods of that game.
“Some players know they’ve got a fair bit to work on if they’re going to perform well at this level and it was a bit of an eye-opener.
“Oxford are a decent team. I watched them play Newcastle and I think the score probably flattered Newcastle.
“They carry the ball well and have a couple of smart half-backs and a strike player outside in Kashley Watkins.
“We’re expecting a tough game. In every match we’ve played against Oxford in the past two years, there’s only been a couple of points in it so I think it’s going to be another close game.
“We need to improve in certain areas if we’re going to beat them.”
Oxford conceded 56 points in their defeat to Newcastle but coach Tim Rumford said: “While there’s no getting away from a 50-odd point defeat, I don’t think the scoreline really did us justice.
“They scored 28 points in the second quarter and really showed their quality in key positions.
“We couldn’t get our hands on the ball for that period – that was the difference between the two teams.
“For the rest of the time we were really going toe to toe so I suppose the report is ‘good in patches.’
“We need to put those patches together for the full 80 minutes which is what we’re looking to do this weekend.
“We’ve got a young, enthusiastic team and are certainly going to trouble a few teams. I’d like to think that Sunday’s game could be a competitive game against one of the teams around us.”