Hertfordshire Stags 16 Sussex U20 18
Hertfordshire Stags opened their 2011-12 National U 20 Championship with a narrow two point defeat at the hands of Sussex on Sunday.
Having trailed by two points for almost all the second half they took the lead via a fine penalty kick by Dan Watt (Old Albanian) with three minutes left only for Sussex to snatch victory with one minute left. This was probably a fair result as the Stags were forced to defend for most of the second half having conceded a try in the opening minute of the half.
The match was played in near perfect conditions on OMT’s new ground at Sandy Lodge. Both sides suffered from limited preparation and it showed in the number of unforced errors by both sides. However there was plenty of potential on both sides and the Stags defence was excellent, especially in the second half when they only broke into the Sussex half for about five minutes, during which they scored their penalty.
There was a lively opening to the first half and Sussex soon took advantage of a couple of wayward clearance kicks by the Stags.
From the second they ran the ball from the halfway line and although they were stopped short lock forward Reece Cavozzi (Chichester) was on hand to touch down. The Stags equalised within five minutes. A good penalty kick set up a line out 20 metres from the Sussex line. They won the ball, the forwards drove for the line and number 8 Michael Fawssett (Ruislip) took the ball on before passing to flanker James Sonner (Old Albanian) who touched down.
Within minutes the Stags extended their lead with a penalty from Watt after their attack had been thwarted by an offside Sussex player. Less than 15 minutes had been played at this stage but although the Stags continued to press they were unable to add to the score despite some good running in the backs.
After 25 minutes’ play Sussex were next to score, rather against the run of play. A long clearance kick was hacked on and wing Oliver Wilson (Chichester) grabbed the ball to score wide out.
The Stags had their opportunities in the next ten minutes but their hands let them down. But in the final play of the half, Watt scored after full back Nick Foster (Old Albanian) had been stopped just short of the line
The Stags just about deserved their half time lead, but they lost it in the opening minute of the second half. The Stags kicked off deep into Sussex territory, the visitors ran the ball back at pace with all the backs involved and full back Alex Marsh (Hove) touched down to complete a fine try.
From this point Sussex dominated play and the Stags could not break out of their half. They defended stoutly however and Sussex could not capitalise on their territorial advantage and improve on their two point lead.
Finally, after half an hour, the Stags broke out, but were thwarted when a long kick went dead. Then a break from fly half Watt took play into the Sussex 22. From a subsequent line out Sussex were off side and Watt kicked the points. Three minutes were left but there was time for Sussex to get the ball up field where after a series of forward drives the Stags conceded a penalty and Marsh made no mistake with the kick.
The Stags now have a couple of weeks to get to know each other better before they take on Surrey at Bishop’s Stortford RFC on Sunday, January 22.