Molloy’s last-ditch defence helps Stags seal a famous win and make play-off progress

Action from Sunday's Pennine Way clash. Picture by Francis Whittaker
Action from Sunday's Pennine Way clash. Picture by Francis Whittaker

In their first season as a semi-pro club the Stags have made it through to the second round of the Championship 1 play-offs after a tense thriller at Pennine Way.

The 30-26 encounter was tight from start to finish, and it was only a last ditch piece of doughty defence by Jack Molloy that kept the home side’s lead intact at the whistle.

Opponents Oxford kicked off but Hemel got on the scoreboard first, prop James Howitt forcing an offside on six minutes which BJ Swindells kicked for two points.

Oxford took the lead against a nervous-looking home defence on 17 minutes, full back Jonny Leather going over in the corner and converting the try himself.

And the visitors went further ahead soon after, thanks a string of handling errors by the home side which allowed Kenny Calladine to crash through under the posts with Leather again on target with the conversion.

With five minutes of the half remaining, a kick by Youngs on the last tackle saw former Leigh player James Hill outjump everyone to catch the ball and drop down over the line and reduce the arrears, Swindells spot on with a difficult conversion.

The Oxford defence cracked again just before the break when Eddie M’Baraga powered over for a trademark try, with the subsequent Swindells kick making it 14-12 at the break.

Oxford lost influential hooker John Clough to injury but they were still up for it, regaining the lead by kicking early in the set and scoring in the corner,

Five minutes later they scored a replica try to give themselves a six point lead, but both conversions were missed and that proved costly at the final reckoning.

Half way through the second half Hemel’s Mike Forgham broke from his tackler and raced 50 yards before Molloy just managed to reach the line with his outstretched hand and a Swindells kick levelled the scores.

Hemel were on the front foot now, and a quick ball to the right found Aiden Pritchard, who spun out of the tackle for a try.

Hemel completed their scoring when Harry Mostyn went in at the left corner, and Swindells again made the difficult kick.

Oxford rallied and piled on the pressure, and when winger Shaun Robinson was fed from a scrum to find the line and Alex Thompson kicked the points there were only four points separating the two sides.

Stags tried to run the clock down with possession rugby but with two minutes left a kick through bounced up into the grateful hands of Oxford’s Shaun Robinson who set off to run the 70 metres to the Hemel line.

Molloy gave chase and nobody gave the big loose forward much of a chance of catching the speedy winger, but somehow he managed it and Hemel held firm during the ensuing tackles to seal a famous win.