Second half Oxford blitz sends Stags crashing out of the Challenge Cup

Eddie M'Baraga opened the scoring for the Stags. Picture (c) Kevin Read
Eddie M'Baraga opened the scoring for the Stags. Picture (c) Kevin Read

Hemel Stags were dumped out of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup at the third round stage as they were comfortably beaten 22-10 by Oxford RL at Pennine Way.

Every time the two sides had met previously the scores had been close – with last year’s game at Oxford ending in a draw – so the same was expected on Saturday. As it was, Oxford dominated the second half and easily progressed to the fourth round.

It was Oxford who kicked off and, when the ball went out on the full, Hemel were on the front foot immediately but failed to make it count when getting close to the Oxford line.

Hemel did go into the lead on seven minutes when a defence-opening pass by Jermaine Coleman found Eddie M’Baraga whose outstretched arm just found the line. BJ Swindells missed the conversion and the score remained the same until the second half.

Although there were no more scoring before the break, there was plenty of action in a game that swung too and fro.

An interception by man of the match Danny Allen saw him cover 80 yards before finally being caught by the chasing Frank Mayfield when a try looked the likely outcome.

Eddie M'Baraga opened the scoring for the Stags. Picture (c) Kevin Read

Eddie M'Baraga opened the scoring for the Stags. Picture (c) Kevin Read

Hemel gained good field position with a 40-20 by James Helliwell but, as was the case all afternoon, the Stags failed to capitalise.

Oxford were matching Hemel in all departments, and back to back penalties to the visitors were spoilt by a knock-on, but they were unlucky not to score when Scott was held up over the line after a great pass by O’Keefe.

Oxford came out firing after the break but the first incident of note was the sin-binning of Hemel’s Swindells for an errant elbow, and Oxford’s Payne for reacting to it.

With the opening up of the field through the reduction of manpower, the game itself opened up and defences were stretched.

I’ve told my players they need to have a look at themselves in the mirror.

Hemel Stags coach Troy Perkins

Oxford levelled the scores on 51 minutes, with good hands getting the ball to Hoggins on the right, but Hemel regained the lead four minutes later.

Rob Thomas nearly went over twice before hooker Helliwell scooted over near the posts. With Swindells in the bin, Jordan Gale got the extras.

The game then swung around with two Hemel errors being the catalyst; first Mayfield fumbled the Oxford kick-off, with Brooker going over from the resulting scrum.

The second error was Hemel kicking out on the full at the restart. From the resulting penalty, Allen fed Scott who crossed under the posts. Allen’s conversion took the visitors to a four-point lead.

Oxford put the lid on the game with two more tries, again made by Allen, with Hoggins getting his second and the final score going to Jones-Bishop in the corner.

After the game, Oxford coach Tim Rumford said he was disappointed that his side did not control their sets better in the first half but felt they were smarter in the second half and dominated the game.

Hemel coach Troy Perkins was very disappointed as, having been the better team in the first half, only getting four points on the board came back to bite them.

He went on to say: “Oxford were the better team in the second half and I’ve told my players they need to have a look at themselves in the mirror.”