Extra-time heartbreak as the Stags are rumbled by Gateshead Thunder
A Matty Beharrel golden point in the fourth minute of extra-time ended Hemel Stags’ season and secured victory for a relieved Gateshead in their Championship 1 playoff clash.
Hemel – who were missing Aaron Small, Steve Bannister and Owain Griffiths due to the 6pm kick-off time – came so close to pulling off a famous victory, but it was not to be.
Joe Brown opened the scoring for Thunder after 12 minutes, but Beharrell missed the conversion.
Evan Simons scooted over for Hemel soon afterwards to level matters, and BJ Swindells edged the Stags ahead with a successful conversion.
Gateshead retook the lead on the stroke of half-time; Lee Maples crossing in the right hand corner following a wonderful 40/20 by Beharrel, who again skewed the conversion attempt wide to leave the hosts leading 8-6 at the break.
If Gateshead had enjoyed the territorial advantage in the first half, it was Hemel who shaded the second.
The referee gave a penalty to Stags after Dom Maloney had been held down, and Swindells calmly slotted home to silence the home support.
Hemel continued to attack, but a knock-on by Simons and the concession of a penalty gave Gateshead a good attacking position and Sonny Esslemont crossed the line.
This time Beharrel successfully converted the score to edge Gateshead into a six-point lead at 14-8.
Back came Hemel and, desperately needing the next score, gifted playmaker Jy-mel Coleman duly obliged as he nipped through two would-be tacklers to cross just to the right of the sticks. Swindells converted to level matters with 18 minutes left.
Both teams tackled excellently to keep their line intact, although Gateshead thought they had won it when left winger Tom Capper appeared to cross in the corner.
However, Miles McLeod – in his best game in a Hemel shirt – did wonderfully well to just stop him with a brave tackle.
In the last five minutes of normal time, both sides attempted drop goals; Beharrel’s was charged down while Coleman’s just did not have the length from halfway and the game ended all square amid incredible tension.
Extra-time began with Hemel in the ascendency, and again Coleman went close with a drop goal – the ball agonisingly swirling just to the right of the uprights.
Gateshead responded, and had a set well defended by Hemel who were then bringing the ball out of their own half to set up another attack when the otherwise impressive Ryan Chester crucially dropped the ball.
That mistake gave Thunder excellent field position which they exploited, spinning the ball back to Beharrel who slotted the one-pointer between the sticks to break Hemel hearts and end their season.