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Wilde injury hampers Underbank.

Byline: Chris Roberts ,

Underbank Rangers were beaten for the first time this season as they went down 32-28 at Hemel Hempstead in the LHF Healthplan National League III.

There was little between the teams throughout, and on another day Rangers could easily have been celebrating a third victory from three starts.

And they were also left to reflect on the absence of hooker and captain Richard Wilde, who would have provided his side with inspirational leadership in the middle of the field but was forced to withdraw with a dead leg.

The home side opened the scoring after seven minutes with a try from 2004 National League III Man of Steel Dave Marskell, converted by Barry-John Swindells.

But Rangers immediately hit back and were soon 8-6 ahead.

Gareth Simpson set the ball rolling with a penalty and then Bobby Bahadori exploited a gap in the Stags' defence to cross for a converted score.

Within minutes the sides were level as Swindells added a penalty before Sean Lovett crossed to put the home side back in front.

But, almost predictably in this see-saw battle, Rangers hit back to level the scores at 14-14 at the break as Richard Aka scored from 10m out and Simpson banged over the goal.

The second half remained just as tense, with the Stags the first to strike with a try from Anthony Strelitz.

That proved the signal for a purple patch for Underbank, who went on to regain the lead at 24-20.

Simpson added two penalties and was also on hand to add the extras as Gary Keegan finished off a fine sweeping move to score, and it looked as if Rangers could be about to snatch the win.

But the Stags responded with tries from Strelitz and James Ellershaw and further goals from the ever-reliable Swindells to lead 32-24 with just two minutes remaining to make the game safe.

At least the visitors did have the final say as Vailea Piutau took advantage of a lapse in the Hemel defence to slice through and cut the deficit.

Stags: Swindells; Strelitz, Daines, Aiken, Lovett; Irving, Caws; Manito (M), Neilson, Marskell, Manito (N), Halford, Roberts. Subs: Aglamaz, Stocks, Ellershaw, Goodwin.

Rangers: Lewis; Aka, Piutua, Smith, Vaka; Simpson, Bahadori (B); Pollock, Mazza-Fabizio, Brooke, Lyon, Keegan, Bahadori (K). Subs: Ngawaka, Clarke, Whiteley, Smalley.

Referee: Steve Davis.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Apr 19, 2005
Words:388
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