Hemel Stags 30-26 Oxford RLFC
Stags see off Oxford challenge
Hemel Stags set up an elimination showdown with London Skolars next weekend after beating Oxford 30-26 in a see-saw Kingstone Press Championship 1 play-off encounter at Pennine Way.
The Stags had full-back Barry-John Swindells to thank for their progression afterr he scored 22 of their points - including a hat-trick of tries - as the Hertfordshire outfit eventually saw off a spirited Oxford side.
Swindells opened the scoring with a penalty in the second minute, before Jonny Leather gave Oxford the lead with a 15th-minute try that he converted. Leather extended Oxford's lead to six points in the 24th minute with a penalty.
Leather was on target with a conversion once again when Kenny Calladine crossed for Oxford's second try in the 24th minute to extend their lead to 12-2.
Hemel hit back in the 32nd minute when James Hill grabbed their first try of the afternoon but Swindells was unable to reduce Oxford's lead as he missed the conversion. Swindells made no mistake five minutes later, however, when he added the extras after Eddie Mbaraga crossed the whitewash to make it 14-12 in Hemel's favour at the break.
Oxford drew first blood in the second half as Oliver Johnson crashed over for their third try of the afternoon and Tony Benson's side were further in front when Shaun Robinson grabbed their fourth to secure a 20-14 lead.
Swindells then produced seven minutes of devastating rugby in which he scored three tries and kicked two conversions to see Hemel to a 30-20 lead with 10 minutes to play.
With five minutes left on the clock, Oliver Johnson crossed for his second try of the afternoon and Alex Thompson added the extras to reduce Hemel's lead to four but the Stags held on and will now meet the Skolars in next weekend's elimination encounter.