More Phlog than Blog

Good Friday tends to mean Derby Day in the world of rugby league – Wigan v St Helens, Hull KR v Hull, Castleford v Leeds and in the South – Hemel Stags v London Skolars.

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Hemel Stags have come a long way since I first saw them; I can remember standing in driving rain watching them play St Albans’s Centurions – I can honestly say it was more like watching the film 300 than watching a game of rugby league!  Lively to say the least!  I was expecting a tough game, tempers often flair during the Stags/Skolars fixtures.

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With the 2 clubs being so close there’s always been movement between the two, this game saw Jermaine Coleman return to Hemel as Player/Coach with London Skolars.  There was a good crowd, having been in Hemel since 1981 Stags is a strong community club.

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Having been 6 Nations focused I’d only seen Skolars once in 2016 before this game, they played a Wigan team at the HAC in January and looked promising.

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Hemel Stags started the scoring through Kyal Green, with Ben Stead adding the extras. A forward pass by Skolars near to their own line gave the Stags good ground but the defence was solid and the visitors weren’t made to pay for their error.

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However 2 successive penalties given away by Stags led to an inevitable try for Skolars, with Alex Anthony claiming the 4 points and Charlie Lawrence converting the try.

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Penalties seemed to be the order of the day for the home team, they’re coach Troy Perkins pointed out after the match that they amounted to a huge 14!

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The next Skolars try came on the back of an off the ball barge on Coleman, which resulted in territory and a try for Mike Bishay, he pounced on the ball as it was knocked on by a Stags defender, leaping over the line to put Skolars ahead.  Lawrence added the extras.

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Stags looked to have made the most of territory gifted to the by a knock on, but a forward pass saw the cheers of the home crowd quieten.

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The only other points of the half went to Skolars after – yes, a penalty – Mike Bishay took the score at half time to Hemel Stags 6 London Skolars 14.  The half had been fairly even, with defence being a strength for both teams.  The penalty count was however a concern for Stags.

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The second half started with a good try for Stags after Bishay was bumped out of the way, I confess to differing with Sky Sports here – I had Rhys Bowditch down for the 4 points, they have BJ Swindells, which is all a bit strange!  Stead converted to take the gap to a mere 2 points.

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This was after 47 minutes, after that point London Skolars took control of the game, they were massively helped by the ongoing run of penalties given their way, momentum is all in this game and Skolars were handed that time after time by the poor discipline of the home team.

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They scored 4 tries to blow away that 2 point gap, with Sam Nash taking 2 and Aaron Small and Eddie Mbagara touching down.  Mike Bishay converted all 4 with some great kicks.

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For 30 minutes of this game Skolars looked a different class, even as they were helped along by penalties.  With Jy-mel Coleman due to join up with the squad they can only go from strength to strength.

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After a tough start to the season for Hemel Stags I’m sure that they’ll improve as the season progresses.  They’ll need to cut down the penalty count in a big way, as a footnote BJ Swindells saw a yellow card in the final moments of the game.

  • Cost of ticket on the gate   – £12.00

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