RUGBY: Stirring performance from Stags as they are pushed closer to the drop by narrow Oundle defeat

Barnie West scored one of Huntingdon's tries in the narrow defeat at Oundle. Picture: J BIGGS PHOTOG

Barnie West scored one of Huntingdon's tries in the narrow defeat at Oundle. Picture: J BIGGS PHOTOGRAPHY - Credit: Archant

Head coach Damien Whales saluted one of the finest Huntingdon performances of the season - despite seeing his side pushed closer to relegation.

Stags produced a stirring display in a 37-34 defeat at Oundle last Saturday which left them 12 points from safety with only three Midlands Division One East games to go.

They were ultimately undone by the lack of a front row with a host of important players - including prop Steven Chantler - missing. It meant Stags were powerless to stop the Oundle scrum with many of the hosts’ points arriving by that route.

“We played very well and I could not be more proud of the guys,” said Whales. “We deserved to win the game, but the lack of a functioning front row proved costly.

“By my reckoning 21 of Oundle’s points stemmed from scrums on the five-metre line and there was absolutely nothing we could do to stop it.

“It’s a shame as we would hve been comfortable winners otherwise.

“Masses of injuries when working with limited resources has turned this season into mission impossible, but we’ve started to turn the ship around.

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“Our attitude, effort and commitment during the last three games has been first-class, and the mood in the camp is very positive.

“We’re putting a three-year strategy in place to ensure we come back strongly.”

Nick Vallance touched down for Stags only try of the opening half at Oundle. It was successfully converted by Tad Chapman, who also sent over two penalties.

Whales’ side trailed 25-13 at the break but they stung their hosts with a terrific start to the second period.

Charlie Saunders, Barnie West and Vallance all went over in quick succession for converted tries as Stags roared into a nine-point lead.

But some valiant defensive work was not enough to preserve the advantage and earn a precious victory.

Oundle’s monster pack flexed their muscles with a pushover score being followed by a penalty try that edged them back ahead.

Chapman was wide with two late penalty attempts from long range as Stags missed out on a deserved draw.

They host fourth-placed Paviors at The Racecourse this Saturday, 3pm.