Blues Throw Away Lead
Oxford’s League 1 Shield campaign got off to the worst possible start with a defeat at Hemel Stags. The lead changed hands several times but by the end the home side had pulled out a small advantage.
Hemel started off strongly. Their opening kick-off found touch and they kept the pressure up, aided by a penalty and then forcing a goal-line drop-out. Three minutes in, a short inside pass saw James Thornton able to bundle over the line. This was all before Oxford had had any possession at all.
The game was more even in the next spell, with both sides attacking but often conceding possession. Oxford kicks into the in-goal area too often found the dead ball line, and Hemel profited from the extra tackles this gave them. Then Lee Land was sinbinned for a high tackle, and Hemel scored against the 12 men when Daniel Hawksworth twisted over in the tackle.
But Oxford got back into the match with two tries, similar but on opposite wings. For the first Adam Dent took a long pass from Scott Fleming, and then Jordan Gill was completely unmarked to receive a long pass from Callum Windley. Harvey Burnett converted the first from the left touchline, but his second attempt was just to the right of the posts.
Two minutes later Jonny Payne made a great burst through the line, drew the full-back and passed to the supporting Fleming for a try under the posts. Oxford might have had another try shortly afterwards but the half-time hooter stopped a promising attack. That move had begun when a leaping Gill had brilliantly kept a Hemel kick to touch in the field of play.
The half-time break did not stop Oxford’s momentum as the returning Nathan Kitson scored, after juggling the ball whilst running. Kitson had to leave the field injured shortly afterwards, but Stuart Biscomb scored his second try of the season from short range.
This put Oxford three scores ahead and it felt as if the match might be won. However, Hemel had other ideas and scored three converted tries in a short burst. Mitch Vincent created the first with a chip-kick over the defensive line, which he collected himself, dummied the full back and scored under the posts. The other tries came from Reece Williams and Jack O’Brien.
With a four-point lead going into the closing minutes, Vincent also chose to kick a penalty goal after a high tackle. Oxford had one last chance to draw level with an attack down the left. Dent kept the ball in play with a kick forward on the fourth tackle and Oxford did regather, but then lost the ball on the next play. Hemel were then able to run out the clock.
Coach Tim Rumford has said several times that the aim is to reach the play-off stage for this part of the season. To manage that Oxford will need to put a winning run together, and the first chance is a game at home to Hunslet who have lost to Oxford already this year.
Hemel Stags – 1 Mitch Vincent, 6 Jack Wray, 3 Connor Bower, 4 Danny Lawton, 5 Darren Forde, 22 Alex Williams, 7 Lewis Fairhurst, 8 Daniel Hawksworth, 9 Jonathan Burns, 10 Reece Williams, 11 James Thornton, 12 Jack O’Brien, 18 Brett Whitehead
Interchanges: 19 Mark Barlow, 15 Corey Hanson, 21 Matt Welham, 17 Wayne Jowett
Tries: James Thornton (3), Daniel Hawksworth (24), Mitch Vincent (60), Reece Williams (65), Jack O’Brien (66)
Penalty Goal: Mitch Vincent (74)
Other Goals: Mitch Vincent (5 from 5)
Oxford – 1 Kane Riley, 2 Adam Dent, 4 James Cryer, 22 Harvey Burnett, 5 Jordan Gill, 7 Scott Fleming, 6 Callum Windley, 8 Jake Joynt, 9 Brad Moules, 10 Lee Land, 24 Stuart Biscomb, 13 Dwaine McRae, 23 Kieran Hyde
Interchanges: 25 Jonny Payne, 17 Aaron Nicholson, 14 Nathan Kitson, 16 Tom Alexander
Tries: Adam Dent (31), Jordan Gill (35), Scott Fleming (37), Nathan Kitson (45), Stuart Biscomb (53)
Goals: Harvey Burnett (3 from 5)
Half-time – Hemel 12 Oxford 16
Full-time – Hemel 32 Oxford 26
Scoring sequence (home team first) – 6-0, 12-0, 12-6, 12-10, 12-16, 12-20, 12-26, 18-26, 24-26, 30-26, 32-26
Referee – Matt Rossleigh
Penalties – Hemel 8 Oxford 8