Herts Stags pay the penalty for poor kicking against Gloucestershire

Rugby editorial image
Rugby editorial image

Hertfordshire Stags lost to Gloucestershire by the narrowest of margins despite scoring three tries to the home side’s one in the U20 County Championship.

It was a closely-fought match under difficult conditions on a heavy pitch, with sleet to contend with in the later stages.

The deciding factor was the goal kicking where the home full-back, Jack Skelton, converted Gloucestershire’s try and kicked three penalties, whereas the Stags kicks failed.

In addition the Stags handicapped themselves by twice losing a player to the sin bin as they eventually went down 16-15.

That said, the Stags forwards put in another good performance, gaining dominance in the scrums after a hesitant start and competing well in the loose.

However the line out did not function as well as it could have. The backs had limited opportunities, but when they came, the result was two good tries.

Despite an early penalty attempt by the Stags which hit the post, Gloucestershire had the best of the early exchanges.

Both centres ran powerfully and it took some good tackling to prevent an early score. Then after 10 minutes home fly half Ollie Locke made a break and scored, with Skelton adding the conversion.

The home backs kept up the pressure and it was not long before the Stags conceded a kickable penalty, which Skelton did not waste.

Gloucestershire conceded a penalty at the restart which the Stags kicked for a line out, from which Jack Culverhouse drove over to reduce the deficit to five points.

By now the Stags forwards had got into the game and were beginning to dominate the scrums.

On the half hour, gaining good possession just inside his half, Stags full-back George Elliott made a break down the right and right wing Alex Bendin was on hand to complete the move with a try to equalise.

The Stags had the best of the last 10 minutes of the half but there was no further score.

Early home pressure in the second half resulted in the Stags conceding enough penalties for Culverhouse to be yellow carded.

Gloucs made the most of this and soon won another penalty at a line out drive, which Skelton converted into points, so regaining the lead.

For the next 20 minutes neither side really gained the upper hand and there were few scoring opportunities as the majority of the play took place in midfield.

The Stags had not been back to full strength for very long before they were hit by another yellow card. However this time they scored while one short.

Bendin broke away on the halfway line and, after a good hand, sprinted into the home 22 where flanker Joe McKay was on hand to receive the scoring pass.

The Stags were two points ahead with 15 minutes were left, but the rain and sleet was making things difficult for the players.

As the minutes ticked on it looked as though the Stags would hold on to their lead, but with two minutes left a defender was offside and Skelton kicked the penalty. Gloucestershire conceded a penalty from the restart, but it was a long way out into the wind and, as the kick fell short, the clearance ended the game.