Hemel Stags were beaten 12-6 by Kells in an entertaining Challenge Cup third round tie at the Copeland Stadium.
The story behind the scoreline in this classic cup tie is that it was won and lost by an outstanding Kells defence, while Hemel were guilty of making too many unforced errors.
Hemel coach Troy Perkins said: “We made too many errors. Credit to Kells as their goal-line defence in the second half won them the game.
“We dominated the second half but couldn’t convert that into points.”
On four minutes, Reece Rance knocked on 12 yards out. The resulting scrum was the catalyst for a fluid Kells move which ended with the impressive Ross Crawford dummying the Hemel defence to go over the line. Crawford converted his own try for a 6-0 lead.
Hemel replied four minutes later, however, as a penalty for a high tackle gave Rance the chance to atone for his earlier error and go in at the left corner. Ben Stead put the touchline kick between the sticks to bring the scores level.
Soon afterwards, second-rower Paul Culnean took advantage of some flimsy Hemel defending to put Kells back in front, but Crawford was not able to convert this time.
The visitors rallied and began to increase their completion rate – prop Victor Coker was only stopped from touching down thanks to resolute home defending.
Soon afterwards, a penalty to the Cumbrians 12 yards out was too good an opportunity for them not to take the two points on offer; Crawford’s successful kick was the last notable action of the half.
It’s rare in the modern game for a full 40 minutes to remain pointless, but that is just what happened after the break.
Hemel came out for the second half firing on all cylinders, and immediately laid siege to the Kells line. Full-back Scott Ellis went close to scoring in the corner but a relieved home defence managed to bundle him into touch as he was about to score.
A promising Hemel move then failed when Mike Stewart, being held up over the line on a last tackle power play, spilled the ball in a desperate attempt to dot it down .
Hemel thought they had scored when Oli Toms did well to collect a high kick to the corner and touch the ball down. The Stags’ celebrations were halted, however, when the officials ruled the try out for offside.
So Kells survived to deservedly go into the draw for the fourth round of the competition.
Hemel Stags: Scott Ellis, Paul Stewart-Beckett, Ben Waud, Oli Toms, Reece Rance, Chad Isles, Ben Stead, Victor Coker, Andy Kay, Mike Stewart, Kyal Greene, Barry John Swindells, Rhys Bowditch. Subs: Mitch Stephenson, Adam Booth, Luke Patterson, Harrison Brough.