HEMEL STAGS 20 – 32 GLOUCESTERSHIRE ALL GOLDS
The sin-binning of former All Gold Corey Hanson with nine minutes to go gave the Stags just too much to do in their quest for their first league win of the season. A last minute try from Chris Barlow sealed a hard-fought win for Lee Greenwood’s men who had trailed at the interval.
Under a blazing sun and in humid conditions, the sides battered each other almost to a standstill. It was a tense and scrappy affair of full-on commitment where the lead changed hands four times until the All Golds finally secured the points.
The Stags’ search for their elusive victory looked to be on course as they led 16-8 at the break but some committed All Golds defence in the second half leaked only a Mark Barlow score and when Hanson was on the sidelines, they made their man advantage count with two late tries.
The All Golds started well but wilted in the heat as the cloud burnt off and the sun sent temperatures rocketing. Steve Parry opened the scoring from a tap penalty on the Stags line after three minutes as the visitors started the game strongly.
However, Marcus Elliott scored from a Mitch Vincent kick to the corner and Vincent tagged on the goal to put the Stags in front.
Parry went over again for a try – his 99th career touchdown – but Courtney Davies was unable to convert. Chris Barlow then had a try ruled out for a foot in touch as the All Golds battled to regain the advantage.
Vincent added a couple of penalty goals and the conversion to Elliott’s second try, again from a well-placed kick, before the interval saw the teams taking welcome shade.
There was no scoring in the opening ten minutes of the second half but it was noticeable that the All Golds were looking to up the tempo in a bid to wear down the big Stags pack for whom Dan Hawksworth and Warren Jowitt put in a prodigious stint.
Vincent was wide with a drop goal attempt after nine minutes before his next involvement saw him spill Davies’ bomb and Brad Hargreaves picked up the pieces to send Mo Agoro over.
Davies cut the lead to two points with the conversion and the visitors began to turn the screw.
After back-to-back penalties, Harry Kidd forced his way over under the posts to give Davies an easy two but the All Golds failed to cover a short restart and, after Ryan Matthews was held inches short, Mark Barlow scrambled over to tie the scores.
But Vincent hooked the conversion wide leaving the scores level and the game intriguingly poised with 15 minutes to go.
It was getting desperately hot and both sides were taking as much time as possible to restart the game after stoppages in play. But then came the sin-binning which meant the Stags playing the last few minutes with 12 men.
Chris Barlow had done well to take a bouncing ball on his goalline and make yards upfield only for Hanson to make the tackle and then prevent the play-the-ball by pulling the All Golds winger down a second time. The referee had little choice other than to show the yellow card for the professional foul.
The All Golds immediately took advantage as Jack Mitchell picked up a scruffy offload from Richard Jones to dive over and score, Davies extending the lead to a converted try with the extras.
Into the last five minutes, the result was still in doubt. The All Golds drove upfield looking for a drop goal to take them two scores clear but Davies’ attempt was charged down and the Stags returned the ball almost to the All Golds line only to lose possession early in the tackle count.
The visitors managed to seal the game in the final minute as Vincent made a mess of a low, bouncing kick from Davies and from the resulting scrum, Parry crabbed across the field and sent Barlow in at the corner.
Davies landed the touchline goal after the hooter had gone and there was much relief from two sets of utterly shattered players.
STAGS: Mitch Vincent; Darren Forde, Danny Lawton, Josh Casey, Marcus Elliott; Jack O’Brien, Mark Barlow; Daniel Hawksworth, Jono Burns, Reece Williams; Danny Samuels, Munashe Fumanda; Corey Hansen; Subs; Ryan Matthews, James Thornton, Sam Crowther, Wayne Jowitt.
Tries: Elliott (10, 23), M Barlow (65)
Goals: Vincent 4 from 5
ALL GOLDS: Steven Nield; Mo Agoro, Phil Cowburn, Brad Kislingbury, Chris Barlow; Courtney Davies, Jack Mitchell; James Walter, Steve Parry, Harry Kidd; Chris Worrall, Joe McClean; Billy Brickhill; Subs: Luke Stephens, Brad Hargreaves, Malikhi Lloyd-Jones, Richard Jones.
Tries: Parry (3, 13), Agoro (52), Kidd (63), Mitchell (72), C. Barlow (79)
Goals: Davies 4 from 6
0-4, 6-4, 6-8, 8-8, 14-8, 16-8, 16-14, 16-20, 20-20, 20-26, 20-32
All Golds Man of the Match: Courtney Davies
Penalty count: 7-9
Referee: Tom Crashley