ROBBIE Hunter-Paul rolled back the years and helped Mirfield Stags to a vital 28-24 victory over title rivals York Acorn.
Second-placed York had the chance to leapfrog Richard Silverwood’s men and reclaim top spot in the Yorkshire Men’s League Division One but the Stags saved arguably their best performance yet for their biggest test to date.
The match was as closely fought as the two sides’ meeting at Castle Hall three weeks earlier but it was the West Yorkshire outfit that proved their championship credentials.
Mirfield’s pack proved the difference with Steve Mead, Lewis Hardy, Luke Manning and Wayne Jowett constantly breaking the line.
The away side conceded an early try when York front-rower Davey Burns crashed over on eight minutes and scrum half Ken Shepherd added the extras.
It took the Stags little over 11 minutes to respond with a try of their own. This came after some quick hands gave Elliot Smith space to go over in the corner for the first of the winger’s two tries.
On the half-hour mark, the hosts extended their lead when centre Adam Sellers crossed to claim his first of the afternoon.
However Mirfield quickly replied with an outstanding solo-try from Smith.
The big wing man beat several York defenders to score his second of the afternoon. Oliver Rounding was on target to reduce the gap back down to just two points at the break.
Back-to-back tries from James Wilson in the first 20 minutes of the second half gave the Stags their first lead of the afternoon.
Wilson, who switched to full back following Ross Hayden’s injury, was on hand to finish two sweeping moves downfield. Rounding missed the first conversion but slotted home the second to give the Stags a 20 - 12 lead midway through the second period.
With less than 15 minutes to play, loose-forward Kevin Brayshaw’s try gave York hope - bringing the home side back to within just two points.
However the influecne of Hunter-Paul on the field gave the Stags the edge. The former Bradford man took control of the game as he danced through a seemingly never-ending queue of helpless defenders to score under the posts. Rounding added the conversion to re-establish the Stags’ eight-point advantage.
Three minutes later Rounding kicked a penalty goal and this stretched the lead out to a game-high 10 points.
Though the hosts were not done and Sellers went over again with five minutes left on the clock to set up a nervy finish but in the end it was Mirfield who held on to claim a very important win.