Scorpions coach relieved after win in mudbath

South Wales coach Dave Clark returned to Neath a relieved man on Sunday after the Scorpions secured a 22-20 win over Hemel Stags in the Northern Rail Cup.

The victory means that the Scorpions still have a faint hope of qualifying for the last 16 of the competition and for the Northern Rail Bowl Final but they must beat Oldham at The Gnoll this Sunday by a high score and hope that London Skolars are heavily defeated at Rochdale Hornets.

The match was in danger of not going ahead after heavy rain had turned the Pennine Road pitch into a quagmire and was made worse throughout.

But struggling against the conditions, the Scorpions fought back from being two tries down in the second half to win the game.

“We came down here and saw the state of the pitch and it was a bit of a concern really, especially for the welfare of the players,” Clark said. “But we came to the conclusion that it was firm underfoot so we went ahead with the game.

“Overall it was always going to be a slugfest down the middle and it was always going to be a team that respected the ball and took their opportunities that won the game.

“In the first half, we couldn’t get out of our part of the field. We gave them six penalties and we let them ride up the pitch. But I thought our defence was quite good especially on our try-line. In the past it would have been a lot easier for them to score tries but I think we’ve got that mentality now that we’re tough enough and I think our hard work in the first half certainly set up the second half for us.

“We came off at half-time and everyone was shivering cold and it was muddy. We knew in the second half that we had to complete more sets and little things like that really. We were two tries down at one stage and it was good to see the boys hang in there with a never say die attitude and they came back and took the game.”

Man of the match was the Scorpions’ Tongan international James Tutuila who played his best game since arriving in Wales a little over a month ago.

However he was wary of the conditions, especially when the team coach was driving through a heavy snow blizzard on the way to Hertfordshire.

Clark adds: “We were driving down and in the services it was snowing and James was saying that he’d never played in snow before – he’d never even been in snow. It was an experience for him as while there was no snow in Hemel, the conditions were tough and he played well.”

Now the Scorpions must prepare well to face Oldham in a cross-group game next Sunday at The Gnoll knowing that they must not only win but by a heavy score.

And with the Roughyeds also having an outside chance of qualification from their group, a competitive match is in store.

“It’s going to interesting,” Clark said. “Especially as we’re at home. Oldham are a team who will be a top three contender so it’ll be good to see how we’re progressing. I think our mentality has changed a bit and we’re starting to perform better and we’re taking that next step every week. It’ll be good to see how our performances over the last couple of weeks affect the Oldham game.”

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