Harpenden go down fighting as play-off hopes vanish

Action from Harpenden's win over Old Haberdashers.

Action from Harpenden's win over Old Haberdashers. - Credit: Archant

A stirring second-half, four-try fight back by Harpenden was not enough to snatch victory at Old Haberdashers, ending their chances of a play-off place.

Harpenden went into the game knowing nothing less than a convincing win and results going their way elsewhere would be enough to clinch the all-important second spot in London Two North West.

As it turned out, even if they had won, it would not have been enough as Chiswick’s win at home against Tabard meant that the west Londoners held onto the runners-up berth.

Assistant coach Dave Hynard said: “In the first half we never got going – Old Habs were far hungrier and more physical than us. But I am immensely proud of the way we came back after the break. We stuck to our game plan and showed some real spirit.

“Although we’re disappointed not to have made the play-offs, this has been a good season overall. We’ve played some excellent rugby at times, and with lots of talented young players coming through, the signs for next season already look very promising.”

Despite a promising start, Harpenden found themselves two converted tries down after just 12 minutes, and, thanks to the hosts’ dominance in the tight and open play, the score had rocketed to 32-0 by half-time.

As the teams turned round, Harpenden appeared to be facing their worst defeat of the season. But with Curtis Reynolds coming off the bench to go into the front row and Oli Lacey stiffening the second row, they began to enjoy parity in the scrums. And with scrum-half John Collins starting to buzz and stand-off half Harry Hutchins using possession intelligently, they looked an entirely different proposition.

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Flanker Dave Green led the revival by touching down on 55 minutes, and five minutes later Hutchins darted in for a try under the posts.

Tom Stagg pounced on a perfectly weighted chip by Hutchins for a third try and five minutes from the final whistle, after Harpenden had successfully withstood a ferocious assault on their line, Ash Smith dotted down. With four conversion, Tom Sweeney reduced the deficit to four points.

But, as Harps pressed forward again, Old Haberdashers regained the initiative and, with the last kick of the game, Brian Butterwick converted a penalty in front of the posts.