First loss of the season for Harpenden
- Credit: Archant
Despite leading 14-5 at the end of a first half, at the beginning of which it looked as though Chiswick were going to play second fiddle to a feisty visiting team, Harpenden were unable to press their case during a significant period of the match.
The unfortunate sight of lock Ed Preston leaving the pitch injured, later to be followed by, among others, prop Nick Chichester-Miles, forced Harpenden’s captain to make changes to his pack that had an unsettling effect on their rhythm. In fact, he had little option, which was a pity as the Harpenden team had begun the match in majestic style.
The home supporters on the touchline were surprised and disappointed at their team’s performance as the visitor’s backs ripped through the Chiswick defence. Tries, converted by Jannick Green, from Tristan Francis and Adam Stirling – the latter showing a particularly impressive burst of speed – meant that five minutes before the break Harpenden were leading 14-5. With a few minutes remaining, a lapse in concentration allowed Chiswick’s strong running back-row, Riki Darroch, to score just before the whistle blew for half-time. Up until then, Harpenden had looked reasonably comfortable in defence and must have thought they were in with a chance. Darroch had other ideas, however, and later proved to be a danger whenever he got the ball.
The problem just prior to Darroch’s score was that Harpenden had begun to show a lack of firepower up front and were not so dominant in the scrum and line-out; in particular, the absence of Preston was significant and meant less ball for the backs to play with. With a new hooker, an injured prop and a readjusted back-row, Harpenden’s pack found it hard to hold their ground in tight and ruck. It was only towards the end of the game that they bounced back, but by the time Harpenden got their act together again Chiswick had scored three more tries. One of these – the fourth and last - was a penalty try and that summed up the low point reached mid-way through the second half. Just prior to that, Darroch had had a hand in Chiswick’s second (scored by Jon Joyce) and scored the third himself with a strong run through some poor attempts at tackling.
While there was still time to get something for their efforts, Harpenden were given the chance to come within three points of their opponents after a scintillating break from scrum half, John Collins. His run through nearly half the opposition was a reminder of the potential that Harpenden have: unfortunately, he was too quick for his own side so the attack came to a halt. By the time his team had caught up with him, Chiswick had recovered and regained possession.
Harpenden never gave up hope, but time ran out and the better team won on the day. There were, however, some fine individual performances among whom was ‘Man of the Match’ Jackson Cooper Wall.
The next game is a home fixture against HAC on 5 October.