Gallery: Harpenden beaten by title challengers

Thompson breaks through the line

Thompson breaks through the line - Credit: Archant

High-flying Old Priorians beat the elements and Harpenden at Redbourn Lane on Saturday to strengthen their promotion push.

Howard passes before he gets tackled

Howard passes before he gets tackled - Credit: Archant

Harpenden, on the other hand, remain in eighth place, two below rivals St Albans, and are more than safe from relegation with the bottom two teams, UCS Old Boys and London Nigerian on two and minus-18 points respectively.

It was touch and go whether the fixture was going to take place and while the scrums were by and large unaffected the strong winds made handling difficult for both teams, although Priorians adapted better than their hosts.

The visitors who took the lead as Priorians’ fly-half Joe Codrington slipped through the defensive line to score.

No sooner had the scoreboard flashed up the five-point, Harpenden, with the wind behind them, struck back with a well-worked move involving left wing Adam Stirling.

A second try from Codrington and a third, scored by centre Jack Dever, both of which were converted by Codrington, gave Priorians a 19-5 lead at the break. Dever’s score had come from a clever chip by the Priorians fly-half that caught the Harpenden centres off guard: all that was needed was for Dever to run after the ball and touch it down over the line near the posts.

For 20 minutes the second half was a reverse of the first. The Harpenden pack responded to the challenge well, despite having the disadvantage of playing into the teeth of a strong wind that had increased in power since the restart.

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For long spells Harpenden promised much, showing a dogged determination to dig in and fight it out. The pack was dominating the break-down at this stage and George Maestrovic, the Priorians’ No7, vented his frustration by tripping the nearest player in full view of the referee. A 10-minute rest on the touchline ensued.

Harpenden, however, were unable to convert the numerical advantage into points. Although there were times when it looked likely that Harpenden could use scrum-half John Collin’s speed around the base of the scrum to some advantage and get that all-important second try, the Priorians were able to snuff out any threat to their line.

In the end, it was a mistake from a badly executed grubber kick that caused the dam to be finally breached; capitalising on the error, the Priorians’centre David Wilkie gave chase and scored a try.

Up until then, mid-way through the second half, Harpenden had fought bravely, none more so than Pete Sims and Zack Kent who were later to be acknowledged as joint men of the match.

Acting-captain on the day, Simon McGee, had played his part too, always to the fore and, despite the fact that the team was not fully up to strength, he didn’t allow his side to waver when many teams would have thrown in the towel.

As the game wound down, Priorians wore down Harpenden with one more try from Dever; both this try and Wilkie’s before it were converted by the reliable Codrington.

Harpenden will look to bounce back on Saturday when they entertain Beaconsfield at Redbourn Lane.