RUGBY: Staying up could be ‘Mission Impossible’ for Stags after Saturday defeat
- Credit: Archant
Head coach Damien Whales admits avoiding a second consecutive relegation will be a mammoth task for Huntingdon.
Bottom-of-the-table Stags are 10 points from Midlands Division Two East (South) safety with only four games remaining.
Whales’ men were beaten 29-13 by Long Buckby at The Racecourse last Saturday on a day when basic errors and unfortunate injuries took their toll.
Stags hit the front through a Joe Hicken try before being rocked by the loss of influential Wayne Bradley, who was briefly knocked out after an accidental clash.
Two tries for the visitors – the second of which was converted and arrived while Stags were a man down with Lewis Smith on a yellow card – changed the contest before Sam Hirons kicked a penalty on the stroke of half-time to leave Huntingdon 12-8 down.
Their hopes of fighting back in the second period were dashed by the loss of two other key men – Nick Vallance and Stuart Quinn – to injuries.
Nonetheless, Stags soldiered on and a penalty chance in front of the posts was spurned before two more Long Buckby tries settled the issue.
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Quinn, who bravely returned to the fray, was rewarded with a last-gasp consolation try for Stags, but a 13th defeat in 18 games tells the story of their season.
“Having not won on Saturday means it is almost Mission Impossible to stay up,” admitted Whales.
“Long Buckby weren’t that far ahead of us and hadn’t won away from home all season, so we felt it was an opportunity to get a good result.
“We got the early try and were performing pretty well in the set-piece so the signs were good, but the injuries hurt us badly.
“Wayne, Nick and Stuart are three players we cannot afford to be without and losing them was a major factor in our defeat along with the fact that we missed far too many one-on-one tackles.
“I can’t fault the effort of the guys, but the simple truth is that we haven’t been good enough again.
“We’ve still got four games to go and we’ll be doing all we can to end the season positively regardless of where we end up.”
Stags’ final four fixtures are against other sides battling to avoid relegation and those chasing the title.
They go third-bottom Market Bosworth on March 23, host second-placed Market Harborough the following week, head to second-bottom Oakham on April 6 before closing the campaign at home to table-toppers Olney on April 13.