Gallery: Third time unlucky for defeated Stags
Hertford 26 Stevenage Town 5 Herts Presidents Cup final Hertford defeated the Stags in the final of the county cup for the third consecutive year. After such a highly successful season, the London Three North West champions must have thought that this wa
Hertford 26 Stevenage Town 5
Herts Presidents' Cup final
Hertford defeated the Stags in the final of the county cup for the third consecutive year.
After such a highly successful season, the London Three North West champions must have thought that this was their best chance to upset the formbook against a team two leagues higher than them.
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But, in reality, Hertford were always in control and never looked like relinquishing their grip on the trophy which has seen them successful in each of the last five seasons.
For Stevenage to succeed, they had to be on top of their game and the harsh lesson learned was that at this level you have to take your chances.
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The main difference between the two sides was that Hertford took theirs in scoring three tries, while Stevenage squandered a number of clear try-scoring opportunities.
This enabled Hertford to gradually compile a lead from which it proved impossible for Stags to claw themselves back into the game.
Town missed the first of their opportunities before there was any score on the board, when the ball was knocked on with a clear overlap and the line at their mercy.
Hertford responded almost immediately from a quickly taken penalty resulting in centre Steve Small scoring. The try was converted by Phil Ellis.
Stevenage came back at Hertford and won a penalty themselves some 10 yards from the Hertford line, but tried an over-elaborate move which ended with the ball being tuned over and the attack cleared.
Town were guilty of causing their own problems from a series of poor clearances, which enabled Hertford to maintain the pressure and on the half hour they extended their lead when Ellis converted a penalty.
Again Stevenage came back and a good run from Michael Wilson came to nothing when Town were unable to retain possession.
Eight minutes before half-time, Ellis converted his second penalty after Adam Amos was penalised for killing the ball and was sent to the sin bin. He was followed into the bin shortly afterwards by Hertford number eight Billy Johnson who was guilty of a high tackle.
The period leading up to half-time was Stevenage's best of the match as they attacked the Hertford line and put together a series of good moves.
From one such move, Marc Dyer came close but just put a foot in touch and Ian Crompton beat the Hertford defence to complete a fine finish, only for the score to be ruled out for a forward pass.
Afterwards, players on both sides and spectators alike agreed that the referee had got that one badly wrong.
Two further chances went begging when Stevenage knocked-on with overlaps which would certainly have resulted in a score.
Stags needed to convert that period of pressure into points and their failure to do so meant that Hertford went into half-time with a 13-0 lead and the momentum clearly with them.
Stevenage needed to get the first score in the second period but instead saw the game slip away from them when firstly Ellis kicked a 40m penalty and then followed that up with a well-worked try to put Hertford out of sight at 21 points ahead.
Despite the scoreline, Town never surrendered and continued to work away at Hertford but they were unable to secure the level of possession that has been the cornerstone of their league season.
Hertford's fly-half Robbie Miller made the most of the ball available to him to stamp his authority on the game and his side completed their scoring when Ellis intercepted a wayward and over-ambitious long pass to score his second try.
It is credit to Town that with 25 minutes still to play and being 26 points down, they continued to compete and did not allow Hertford to add further to their score.
With 15 minutes to play, Town were rewarded for their efforts when number eight Gareth Roberts scored from a forward surge on the Hertford line.
The remainder of the game was played out without any further score and Hertford deservedly ran out clear winners.
For Stevenage, Tavita Faamausili was lively in the loose play and proved a handful for the Hertford forwards.
Kyle Lemon had a sound game at full-back and put in a number of good kicks and when Town were able to move the ball wide, both wingers Wilson and Crompton looked dangerous.
Plenty of hard work and endeavour was shown in a spirited performance but once Hertford had been able to build a lead, they never looked in any serious danger and Town can look back at the lessons learned as they prepare for next season.
Afterwards, disappointed coach Terry Penny was justifiably proud of his team reaching their third county cup final and praised Hertford for a well-deserved victory.
Town return to action this Saturday as they seek to maintain their unbeaten league record at home to Enfield Ignatians.