It was a long journey north for Hemel Stags this week as they travelled to Cumbria to take on promotion chasing Barrow Raiders on Saturday evening.
The Raiders scored eight tries and eventually saw off the stubborn Stags 44-22, but the 22-point margin hardly painted a fair picture of the efforts of the men from Hemel – particularly after the loss of influential forward Alex Ingarfield early on in the contest.
I was proud of the players’ effort and, with 20 minutes to go, we were still in with a chance of winning the game.Hemel Stags coach Troy Perkins
Hemel scored in their first attack; a simple enough effort in the corner from winger Alex Anthony with just seven minutes of the game gone.
The Raiders response was swift – a 10th-minute try from Peter Lupton – but again the Stags cut open the Barrow defence and centre Michael Brown put them back in front.
Right on cue, the Raiders hit back as a kick through from Nathan Mossop was snapped up by Craig Briscoe and the sides were level again.
Eighteen minutes later, James Duerden crashed over for his home debut try. Josh Ward kicked his third goal and Barrow took a slight lead in at the half-time break.
Two minutes into the second half, some inspired Hemel defending put an end to a Harrison break, but the delay was only brief and from the scrum the ball went out to Kyle Dolan to go over the line.
The tit-for-tat exchange took another turn when Hemel’s best move of the match brought them a try from Frenchman Thibault Cousine, and the visitors were again getting too close for comfort for the large home crowd.
However, two tries in a five-minute burst from Andy Litherland and Brad Marwood took the Raiders out of reach at 32-18, although Anthony went over for his second try of the game to narrow the gap to just 10 points.
There was still time for a late Barrow flourish – Bullock charging over for a deserved reward from a short Mossop pass and Chris Hankinson finishing things off with four minutes left.
After the game, Stags coach Troy Perkins said: “I was proud of the players’ effort and, with 20 minutes to go, we were still in with a chance of winning the game.
“We showed what we can do with the ball and caused Barrow plenty of problems, although I felt we let them off the hook a few times when we had them under pressure on their try line.
“They have a massive pack and defensively it was hard to contain their big pack and this took its toll late in the game when we were out on our feet.
“We showed plenty of courage, especially as we lost Alex Ingarfield early in the game which meant some of our forwards needed to do bigger minutes than normal.”
The Stags face another daunting task on Sunday when their opponents will be league leaders Oldham. The game kicks-off at 2.30pm at Pennine Way.