Real honour in defeat
Hertford 41 Stevenage Town 12 Stags showed quality and resolve in their Herts Presidents Cup final defeat to National League Hertford. Massive underdogs Town did themselves proud in Sunday s final defeat at Croxley Green. They asked questions of a side t
Hertford 41 Stevenage Town 12
Stags showed quality and resolve in their Herts Presidents' Cup final defeat to National League Hertford.
Massive underdogs Town did themselves proud in Sunday's final defeat at Croxley Green.
They asked questions of a side three divisions higher, and despite the final score, provided a competitive game for 80 minutes.
Unlike some recent finals, it was played in a good spirit and gave the referee little to do except listen to the vociferous travelling support that made it seem as if Stags were playing at home.
Hertford set their stall out early, using well-organised rolling mauls to good effect.
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After 11 minutes Stags conceded a penalty. Hertford kicked to the corner, won the lineout and again used the maul to drive over to score a try in the corner.
This was converted by Mark Mapletoft who was playing in the Premiership for Saracens last year.
The Stags front row of Barry Cook, Ben Tranter and Neil Bamber gave their opposite numbers a torrid time.
But despite some good possession, stealing lineout ball and strong running from centres Alex Willcox and Gareth Lewis, wings Michael Wilson and Ian Crompton and full-back Greg Salisbury, Stags were unable to make the telling score.
Despite kicking with a difficult wind in the first half, Stags were unsuccessful with two attempts at goal.
Hertford were not as adventurous with the ball and had to defend well against the power, pace and determination that was being displayed throughout the Stags side.
It was somewhat against the run of play that Hertford managed to drive the ball upfield and then pass it wide where experience showed to score in the corner with the last play of the half to give a flattering 12-point lead.
This same level of intensity was maintained by a determined Stags side in the second half.
The Hertford hired help, Mapletoft, attempted to find breathing space and kick in the corners and pin Stags into their own half.
Despite a continued battering of the Hertford scrum, and some good runs from all the forwards, Hertford began to demonstrate their experience and after 10 minutes squeezed over in the left-hand corner despite valiant tackling from all quarters.
Hertford managed to increase the pressure for a sustained period.
Their next try came from a clever kick through the defence and a centre beat the defence to touch down.
The next was from probably the best backs move of the game while the catch and drive tactic added another.
Lesser sides might have let their heads drop but Stags are fit and mentally tough.
The half backs worked tirelessly to provide ball for the pace outside as well as linking well with the forwards.
It was from a good combination of forwards and backs that Lewis escaped the Hertford defence to score and convert a try.
Hertford immediately replied with a kick to the corner but once again Stags turned over the lineout ball to temporarily clear the danger before a well-worked try on the right wing.
Stags won a scrum before Adam Amos charged at the defence before releasing Willcox who was tackled short of the line.
But the hero of the day, prop Bamber, collected the ball and drove over to score with the last touch of the game.
This provided Bamber with a just reward for himself and his team-mates as he manfully played through the whole game despite a badly damaged shoulder.
Club coach Terry Penny said: "I'm immensely proud to be part of a team that showed true grit and determination to match and better their National League counterparts.
"Without Mapletoft and a well-drilled driving maul, the result would have been different."
Chairman Steve Mudd added: "Terry and the boys made each and everyone of us very proud of their outstanding performance.
"We said to our lads before the game to just go out play rugby and enjoy yourself.
"Our set piece of scrum and lineout provided ample opportunities to take the game to Hertford and test their resolve.
"Although we have had back-to-back promotions in the league and look to finish third in London Three North West, I believe this is only the start of great things to come from this very young talented side.
"In partnership with Stevenage Borough Council, we have been awarded further funding for our community sports coach which will help further invest in the development of youth rugby in Stevenage.