OLD Halesonians had to surrender top spot in National League 3 Midlands for the first time this season following a 20-14 reverse against fellow title rivals Broadstreet.
Injuries to talismanic player-coach Mark Evans and flanker Dan Young weakened Hales pack and Broadstreet took full advantage to win the battle up front.
Team boss Simon Hussey claimed: "If we'd had both of them playing, it could have made all the difference as Broadstreet had a big, powerful pack.
"In fact their pack was as big as anything I've seen. They were well drilled and very good in the rucks and mauls. It was a case of their pack against our backs".
Early exchanges weren't for the faint-hearted as both packs fought for supremacy.
Initially Hales matched their opponents up front, but as the game progressed, Broadstreet's pack got on top.
Both sides went close to scoring tries before Broadstreet took the lead with a penalty.
Hales fought back with Pete Fitzgerald pinching possession, feeding Luke Smith who in turn set up full back Chris Hooper to race over for a try which he converted himself to give his side a 7-3 lead.
Broadstreet battled back and scored from a pushover try to take a 10-7 lead at the break.
With Broadstreet's pack in the ascendency for much of the second half, Hales fell further behind by conceding another penalty.
Hales hit back, winger Joe Oxford making an excellent break before sending the ever present Hooper over for his second try, which he duly converted.
At 14-13, Hales had a chance, but it was Broadstreet's pack that had the final say, when they scored from another pushover try following a five metre scrum.
"It was a reality check,"insisted Simon Hussey. "We will have to regroup ahead of Saturday's trip to Hinckley, who are another side with title aspirations".
Mark Evans remains a major doubt after damaging his ankle in training but are more optimistic that Dan Young can return to the back row while skipper Richard Taylor should be ready to resume at tight head prop.
HALES Second XV pulled off a pleasing 32-24 success over Sutton Coldfield following a ding-dong battle.
Simon Sabel crossed for a couple of tries with Gregg Smith, Jon Harris, Richard Topping and Tom Harris adding their names to the try tally while Tom Harris kicked one solitary conversion.
The Fourths had a 17-7 success at Kidderminster.