COACH Kieram Hallam blamed a lack of fitness in the final 10 minutes for Hereford’s 33-15 defeat at higher-graded Old Halesonians in the North Midlands Cup.

A youthful Hereford put in a “great performance” before the hosts raised the intensity and used their weight and experience to close out the tie.

Hallam said: “This was a great performance from a young team with an average age of 21.

“We lost it in the last 10 minutes when we lacked fitness and we lost our precision,” said Hallam.

“We shall stick together, take the loss and evolve a side to progress into the plate competition.

“This was a fantastic effort and the general performance level will inevitably raise questions over some of the more established players.”

Halesonians took an early lead from a controversial penalty try after their chaser was blocked by a Hereford player.

Halesonians’ pack provided plenty of possession and they registered a second try, which extended their lead to 12 points before Mark Philo raced over for Hereford’s first score.

Charlie Loughman slotted the conversion but Hereford were hamstrung by injuries to Jock Welch and Fran Jennings.

Leon Parsons, Philo, Loughman, James Stubbs and Troy Brocklebank all caught the eye for Hereford in the first half.

Hereford drew level midway through the second period with an unconverted try from Stubbs.

However, Halesonians scored a third try, which they converted, before Loughman landed a penalty for Hereford.

The hosts closed out the game with a brace of converted tries from forward moves.