Game 2 for Good Friday took me back down the A406 to White Hart Lane in Tottenham and what should have been a ‘local derby’ between London Skolars and Hemel Stags. I first saw the Stags play at Hemel before they were promoted into League 1, playing against St Alban’s Centurions, the rain was pouring and the match was more like a battle than a game of rugby, I’d never seen anything like it!
Hemel was a true community club, that was clear from the support I saw that day as well as the local players in the team, over the years Dan Sarginson, now playing in the NRL and Kieran Dixon, now back at Broncos made their way through this club. As things stand today, the training at this part time club takes place in Dewsbury 3 times a week. When that news became common knowledge the Dewsbury Rams Chairman issued a statement
“The move to Dewsbury will give the Stags access to a much more professional environment, in which to develop their playing and coaching personnel, while placing the club close to a large pool of experience Rugby League players”
At this time therefore I believe not a player in the Hemel Stags team is a local player, I have something of a rant to come on the whys and wherefores, but for this piece I have to ask – what is the point? This is basically Stags in Ram’s clothing, how is that working to spread the game outside of the M62 corridor? Not dual registered players, but players who live in and around Sheffield and Dewsbury, so in effect this wasn’t a local derby at all!
Hemel Stags started the scoring after an early 40/20, Mitch Vincent breezed through to score adding the extras himself, that would be the last time the visitors would lead. Ryan Chester collected a high ball to run in and score Skolars first try of the afternoon, Charlie Lawrence added the extras to even up the scores.
Sam Nash had a very good, Good Friday on the Skolars wing, scoring in the corner to take Skolars into the lead. The conversion was from the touch line and went shy of the posts. Phil Lyon was next on the scoreboard having collected a ball knocked on by the Stags he went over to score, he took the conversion but again the ball missed the target.
Two players have shone up the middle of the field for Skolars at the matches I’ve been to, Lamont Bryan and Eddie Mbaraga are both very strong ball carriers and this game was no exception. Bryan was rewarded as his strength power him over the line, Lawrence converted the try which took the score to Skolars 20 Stags 6 at half time.
I was sat in front of some Stags fans and we had a chat over half time, I noticed what looked like a heated discussion taking place between a Stags player and the officials, it seemed unwise, but it turned out it was actually Daniel Samuels receiving a red card for dissent. a difficult afternoon for the visitors just got harder!
Louis Robinson who has also been in fine form so far this season was the first to score for Skolars in the 2nd half, he doesn’t bring as much size to the part as Bryan and Mbaraga but he certainly brings an ability to drive forwards and make metres, this time he ran unimpeded over the try line. We then had a Sam Nash ‘sandwich’ he scored either side of a Brandon Pickersgill try , the result of the 3 taking the score to Skolars 40 Stags 6.
Skolars hadn’t finished and nor had Sam Nash, he scored his 4th try, my comment on Twitter was at that time that the extra man was really telling. Rugby League is a game of momentum and with that and an extra man on your side the game really is only likely to go one way. An Erjon Dollapi try took the Skolars to 50 with the conversion, Michael Sykes joined in to stretch the score to 54.
Huge credit must go to a well beaten Stags team this point as James Thornton scored a great try, however it was Eddie Mbaraga who had the last word and the game ended with the score on London Skolars 60 Hemel Stags 12. The red card really hurt the visitors and Skolars who have at times fallen off in the second half kept the pressure on to register a big win.