LEAGUE leaders Underbank Rangers maintained their 100 per cent record in the Co-operative Conference National but had to graft for their 28-22 success at Hemel Stags.
Rangers were given a mighty test by a Stags outfit that had won its previous three games and are a tough proposition at their Pennine Way Stadium home.
Underbank, who in their defence were never behind, had player-coach Richard Knight to thank for their success.
The mercurial stand off had a hand – or more often a boot – in each of the visitors five tries.
And two other touchdown chances, both late in the game, went begging as firstly when full back Will Midgley spilled the ball over the line after having been put clear by Knight, and secondly when winger Courtney Allette was ruled offside in chasing Knight’s smart kick through.
Apart from those incidents, everything Knight touched turned to gold, starting with a telling kick in the 10th minute which led to loose forward Lee St Hilaire pouncing, Knight adding the first of his four goals.
Hemel hit back with a touchdown for full back Barry John Swindells, which scrum half Ryan Butcher couldn’t improve, only for Underbank to take a real grip through tries by Allette – courtesy of Knight’s kick – and prop Chris Geoghegan, who was sent over by Knight’s astute pass.
The Stags rallied as half-time approached with hooker Martyn Smith bustling over and Butcher adding the extras, but another Knight kick gave the visitors the position for second rower Craig Williams to power in for a try – Knight’s goal secured a 22-10 interval lead for Rangers.
Hemel hit back within four minutes of the restart, prop Ilija Radan steaming on to Butcher’s kick which full back Swindells, who subsequently went off with an arm injury, added the goal.
Knight, however, then sent prop Chris Geoghegan over the whitewash just three minutes later, again adding the extras.
And that was how it stayed until nine minutes from time, when home benchman Yusuf Lawal crossed and Butcher converted from the touchline to set up a grandstand finish.
Results: Coventry Bears 38 Dewsbury Celtic 16, Featherstone Lions 78 Warrington Wizards 22, Hemel Stags 22 Underbank Rangers 28, Nottingham Outlaws 14 Valley Cougars 36, Kippax Knights 52 Bramley Buffaloes 6.