Coach Steve Hazzelby is backing his ‘special’ group of Sedgley Park players to respond in the right manner after the National Two North leaders suffered their first defeat of the season at Tynedale.

In a close encounter, the Tigers lost 14-11 in the North East in what was a tight encounter where they uncharacteristically did not get going.

But ahead of another tough test at third-placed Hull Ionians on Saturday, Hazzelby remain upbeat.

He said: “It was our first defeat of the season and not a great performance.

“We had beaten them narrowly 33-24 back in November and knew this would be a huge challenge and so it turned out.

“They had beaten second-place Fylde the previous Saturday at home and were confident they could cause an upset.

“Despite the huge disappointment, we did get a losing bonus point and are still top of the league - seven points clear of Fylde in second place.

“This coming Saturday is another huge challenge when we are away again to third-placed Hull Ionians and we know we will have to raise our game and put in a top performance if we are get back on track.

“One poor result does not make us a poor team and this is a special group of players who have the ability to beat any team in this league.

“We will train well this week and will look forward to the challenge.”

It was a special day for Sedgley tighthead prop Ben Black, who was playing his 250th game for the club, having joined more than 10 years ago and being the cornerstone of the first team and a special club man inspiring many of the younger players.

But the result was not the way Black would have wanted to celebrate.

The Tigers started well, playing rugby in the right areas of the field, keeping possession well and looking to test the home team’s defence at every opportunity.

And good phase play in Tynedale’s 22 led to a well-worked try for winger Rhys Henderson, who went over in the top left-hand corner after slick passing from the backs to put the visitors 5-0 up after the first 15 minutes.

And they extended the lead on the half-hour mark with a well-taken penalty by fly-half Ollie Glasse to make it 8-0 at half time.

It was a pleasing first-half performance by the Tigers - defence was good and scrummage solid, though they did lose a few crucial lineouts in their 22 that would have given them the opportunity to possibly catch and drive through the forwards.

They started the second half with another penalty from Glasse that put them 11-0 in the lead.

However, Tynedale are a good team that run the ball well and it was good hands in the 64th minute that gave them their first score to bring them back in the game with 15 minutes to go.

Time and again, Sedgley looked to break the hosts down but unnecessary penalties gave them territory and possession in the Tigers’ half.

And it was a sharp line break by their backs that brought them their second converted try to take the lead 14-11 with nine minutes to go.

The leaders did have a few chances to hit back at them, but poor discipline and a lack of cohesion and momentum saw them take the win.