FOURTH-placed Stags won a close contest 13-10 on Saturday against the Midlands Two East South’s second-placed side Lutterworth to remain in the race for the second promotion spot.
With Peterborough Lions clear at the top of the table, Lutterworth and Bugbrooke are ahead of Huntingdon in that race - but both of those teams still have a game in hand over Stags.
Coach Damian Whales was thrilled with the victory, saying: “We knew it would be a hard and tight match decided by a few points – and that it would probably be won by the team that made the least errors.”
Stags spent much of the opening 10 minutes camped deep in the Lutterworth half and the breakthrough came when Dougy Bently detached himself from a rolling maul 20 yards out and dragged three defenders to the line to score. Dan Malem, who ended the match with a 100 per cent kicking record, added the extras.
With the wind being used to good effect, Stags were able to keep applying pressure on the visitors and two further penalty goals from Malem gave Stags a 13-0 half time lead.
“Our first half was simply outstanding,” said Whales. “Our forwards completely butchered their pack and as a result they were rattled and forced to chase the game.”
Playing into the wind in the second half, Stags battled to get out of their own half but their fantastic defence frustrated the visitors into having to take a long-range penalty to score their first points.
With 15 minutes remaining Stags’ only lapse in concentration saw Lutterworth’s wing three-quarter evade several tackles and score near the posts to reduce the gap to 13-10.
For the final 10 minutes Stags played their most mature rugby of the season to close out the nailbiting win.
“So often in the past we would have panicked and tried to force another score or even conceded again - but today we tightened up, used our forward runners, and ground out the win,” said Whales.
“Our forwards were immense today and our backs defended soundly so it is very hard to single out individuals from such a tight team performance.
“But I thought Dougy Bentley had his best game of the season and Rory Parker made a great impact off the bench for the final 20 minutes.”
Stags are at home to Market Harborough on Saturday.
Midlands Two East South results: Bugbrooke 38-14 Oadby Wyggestonians, Dunstablians 35-3 Market Harborough, Huntingdon & District 13-10 Lutterworth, Peterborough Lions 84-10 Stockwood Park, Vipers 23-11 Long Buckby, Wellingborough 17-23 Northampton Old Scouts.