An unusually lacklustre Stevenage Town struggled to shake off the exertions of their cup final the previous weekend as they overcame dogged resistance from relegation haunted Barnet to win 14-13. Playing against a strong wind in the first half, Stags had
An unusually lacklustre Stevenage Town struggled to shake off the exertions of their cup final the previous weekend as they overcame dogged resistance from relegation haunted Barnet to win 14-13.
Playing against a strong wind in the first half, Stags had to defend from the outset with Barnet winning three scrums near the line in the first six minutes.
Stags were caught offside at a ruck to provide Barnet with a simple kick for three points.
With both sides needing to win for different reasons, there were far too many unforced handling errors which broke any possible fluency.
Despite some good work from the Stags pack, and the early departure of Gareth Roberts with an injury, it was Barnet who scored and converted after 22 minutes to take a 10-point lead.
This jolted Stags into some more recognisable action as Ian Crompton, Michael Wilson and Stephen Hayes ran at the defence and Wilson was unfortunate not to ground the ball when held up on the line on the stroke of half time.
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Despite some strong half-time words from Town coach Terry Penny, it was Barnet who started the brighter.
Their winger sliced through some inept tackling before Crompton made up a 10-yard deficit to bring him down just under the posts.
Both Stags' centres and full-back were attempting to make space and also shut down the Barnet attack.
Kris Foskett put pressure on his opposite number, who dropped the ball allowing Foskett to kick ahead and beat everyone else to the touchdown. Full-back Gareth Lewis converted.
Indiscipline and frustration crept into the game and Stags were penalised for talking to the referee who then also awarded a penalty for offside under the posts to allow Barnet to extend the lead to six points.
Stags' forwards won the following kick off and after some good play from the backs, Foskett ran a superb line to once again outpace the defence and run behind the posts - only for the score not to be awarded for allegedly stepping on the dead-ball line.
Town continued to pressure the line and eventually the home full-back received a yellow card for being deliberately offside, at a ruck, five metres out. Frustration continued to build and Adam Amos was dismissed for a 'soft' red card.
Earlier in the season Stags would have lost this game but they continued to play rugby.
And they were rewarded when Alex Willcox finished off a good move to score under the posts, giving Lewis another easy conversion.
Stags hung on through an eternity of injury time to leave Barnet needing to beat fellow strugglers Harpenden in their last game of the season to survive.
Coach Penny will expect far more from his side when Stags finish their season at home against second placed Tring on April 22.