LEE ST HILAIRE grabbed a sparkling hat trick as Huddersfield Underbank Rangers continued to power along at the top of Co-Operative Conference National with a 42-26 home win against bottom club Bramley Buffaloes.
He pounced after 31, 33 and 41 minutes to ensure The Cross side extended their unbeaten league run to 13 matches against a struggling opposition who showed no fear in arguably their best performance of the season.
Craig Williams (27), Richard Aka (54), subs Chris Geoghegan (60) and Sam Cummings (64) and Adam Ryder (77) scored the other tries while Neil Barrett landed three of six attempts and Courtney Allette and Will Midgley kicked one each.
But the victory was soured by an injury to Aka, who suffered a suspected leg fracture when scoring and could be out for the season.
Underbank looked out of sorts in the first quarter, but they enjoyed a purple patch between the 30th and 55th minutes, scoring five tries in that period to take the match away from their plucky opponents.
Bramley – disappointed not to get a bonus point after some of their play – almost scored in the first minute as they charged down a clearing kick in the opening set.
They were soon ahead, however, as Rangers’ Sam Housley threw a wild pass which was collected by Bramley wing Nick Fontaine who outpaced the cover on a sparkling 50m dash to the line.
Bramley then ripped open the home defence twice in five minutes through Jason Dodd and winger Sam Neave, but the chances came to nothing.
They did double their lead when Graham Charlesworth chipped over, re-gathered his own kick and fed impressive Aussie centre Sean Storie, who was well tackled by Rangers full back Will Midgley. Graham Harrison took the ball to the line and from his offload in a three man tackle, Charlesworth popped up wide out to cross unopposed.
Lewis Barrett again missed the extras, but surprisingly the Buffaloes led by eight.
Underbank, despite a large penalty count in their favour, were making plenty of errors but hauled themselves back into the contest when, following a mazy run and offload from stand off Barrett, outstanding prop Williams crashed over to open the Rangers account and Barrett added the conversion.
From the re-start Underbank went in again as St Hilaire spotted a gap in the defensive line and bustled his way through.
He notched his second in three minutes as he won the race to a superbly-weighted Barrett chip through.
Barrett kicked both conversions and within five minutes Underbank had reversed an eight point deficit to lead by 10 at the break.
St Hilaire completed a remarkable nine-minute hat trick on the first set of the second half.
Winger Aka was next to score as he supported a Ryder break and, suddenly, Rangers led by 18, but Aka took no further part after his injury.
Bramley’s re-start kick was spilled and the Buffaloes took full advantage as Dodd scored a well-deserved try to reduce the deficit.
Underbank sealed the win with tries from Geoghegan and a first for the club for Cummings, who touched down a fumbled Jack Mitchell bomb.
With Barrett off the field, Midgley and Allette added the extras.
However, Bramley finished the game impressively posting three tries in the last 15 minutes. Ash Taylor was first to cross against his former club and he was followed by the hard-working Graham Nash. Ryder got one back for the hosts and the scoring was finished by Fontaine, completing his brace in the final minute.
Underbank now visit Warrington Wizards on Saturday (3.30).
Huddersfield Underbank: Will Midgley, Courtney Allette, Alex Chatterton, Adam Ryder, Richard Aka, Neil Barrett, Shaun Smith, Craig Williams, Adam Carroll, Sam Dalby, Sam Housley, Rob Joyce, Lee St Hilaire. Subs; (all used) Jack Mitchell, Chris Geoghegan, Sam Cummings, Paul Horsfall.
Other results: Coventry Bears 12 Featherstone Lions 32, Dewsbury 66 Warrington Wizards 10, Nottingham Outlaws 0 Kippax Knights 54, Valley Cougars 26 Hemel Stags 37.