A VALIANT fightback could not make up for a nightmare start as Oxford RL lost 30-24 at Hemel Stags.
The visitors trailed 20-0 at half-time, but produced an excellent response to get within two points at one stage.
But Hemel rallied to secure the points which kept them in the top four at Oxford’s expense.
The visitors had lost at Pennine Way in last season’s play-offs and they were behind within 14 minutes.
A good set of six ended with BJ Swindells diving over.
He added the extras and before long he converted Hemel’s second try, scored by Eddie M’Baraga after Michael Crabtree fumbled a high kick.
Swindells kicked the goal to make it 12-0 and the advantage was quickly extended when James Hill went over in the corner.
Swindells missed the conversion, but added two more penalties before the hooter to round off a miserable half for Oxford.
But the interval revitalised the visitors, who emerged looking like a different side.
Within two minutes good work from JJ Baird and Luke Evans allowed Sean Morris to touch down.
Thompson converted, but it was virtually his last action as a late hit forced him out of the game.
From the resulting penalty Sam Blaney wriggled over, with Tommy Connick adding another two points.
A third try in 11 minutes, via Morris’ second of the game, gave Connick another kick, which he slotted to trim Hemel’s lead to only 20-18.
But just as it appeared the hosts were on the ropes, they responded with two tries in six minutes, from Michael Brown and M’Baraga.
It gave them a valuable cushion, which was needed, with Rory Sharratt’s try, converted by Connick, setting up a frantic finish.
Andrew Hoggins came close late on, but his break was halted by two defenders and left Oxford with only the consolation of a bonus point.
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