Hemel Stags kicked off their 2014 campaign with a narrow 22-20 defeat to a talented Wakefield Trinity Wildcats U19 side at the Rapid Solicitors Stadium.
The Super League side agreed to the fixture after Stags took on the Wildcats first team in last year’s Challenge Cup competition – a game which saw the Stags cheered off at the end of the game by the home fans after a gutsy display.
Stags coach Troy Perkins took a large squad of 28 players to the game to give him the best chance of assessing his options for the coming season.
Wakefield boss Stuart Dickens, meanwhile, used 23 players including a some of the 2013 U16 squad who have stepped up an age group following last year’s unbeaten campaign.
The game was played over three 30 minute periods and the young Wildcats were first on the scoresheet after 15 minutes when a gap appeared in the Hemel defence.
The Stags repied quickly, though, and ended the first 30 minutes 14 - 6 up, with big prop Eddie M’Baraga helping himself to a try.
Having played their strongest side in the opening period, Perkins rang the changes and introduced a lot of trialists and young players – so it came as no suprise that Wakefield began to claw back the gap and ended the game just in front.
Perkins, though, said he was pleased with what he learned from the game: “I thought we were a bit more physical than them, which was what you would expect, but fitness began to tell,” he said.
“I could have kept the strongest side out and probably ran away with the game, but I would have learnt nothing by doing that.”
Stags’ next pre-season run out will be in Wrexham against North Wales Crusaders.