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Underbank in need of play-off impetus.

Byline: Doug Thomson ,

Underbank Rangers have eight games left in which to revitalise their National III play-off hopes.

But a major improvement will be needed if they are to make the top six of the dwindling division.

Confirmation that Birmingham have pulled out of the league has not only robbed Bank of a match next Saturday, but also two points.

They had beaten Brum 64-30 at The Cross in April, but the result has now been expunged.

Bank, who also lost the two points gained against Carlisle when they dropped out, are now four points outside the play-off zone, although they do have games in hand.

But they will count for little if coach Damon Scholes can't coax some more cohesion from his side.

Inability to field a settled team has been a big problem, with the coach's decision to give debuts to Adam Lancaster, Nick Sharpe and Steve Farrell and name himself on the bench for this match taking the total number of players used this campaign to 45 in 12 games.

Bank would actually have stolen a point had Ben Littlewood's last-minute conversion attempt not hit a post, but that would have been tough on hard-working Hemel.

They scored six tries to Bank's five, attacked - and defended - as a unit far better than the home side and in powerful forward James Ellershaw, had the most impressive player of the match.

At least Scholes can take heart from the fact that his team refused to throw in the towel, twice fighting back to level matters and coming agonisingly close to doing it for a third time before being forced to accept a fourth straight loss.

It was one-way traffic as Hemel built up a 12-point lead with a second-minute penalty by Barry-Jon Swindells, a converted ninth-minute try by Kaz Harris and a 12th-minute score by Scott Roberts.

But former Giants player Scholes came on as a substitute to spark a home revival.

A solid set of six forced a Hemel drop-out, with the coach's strong drive earning the field position from which Adam Browne went over on 18 minutes for Littlewood to goal.

Three minutes later, it was all square as the stand-off added the extras after the determined Scholes crossed from dummy half.

Hemel were back in the driving seat at 20-12 on 37 minutes when Anthony Strelitz scored wide out left, then Callum Irving crossed after a one-two with Ben Wykman.

Littlewood pulled two points back with a 39th-minute penalty.

But it was 26-14 in the 50th minute as Strelitz again went over for Swindells to convert.

Lovely handling by Matthew Franks freed Richard Aka to scorch through from halfway on 57 minutes, when Littlewood goaled.

And Littlewood levelled with another conversion after Browne set up Ben Lewis after 63 minutes.

But after Lewis was sin-binned on 68 minutes, Harris scored a converted close-range try on 74.

Lee Paxman forced his way over with a minute to go, but Littlewood was unlucky with his goal attempt.
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Jul 5, 2005
Words:499
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