Harpenden hold off St Albans fightback to edge derby
Harpenden returned to winning ways at Redbourn Lane by edging out St Albans 19-12 in a typically hard-fought local derby.
While neither side could be faulted for lack of commitment or effort, there were far too many errors from both teams to please the purists and entertainment was often in short supply.
Not that this will worry Harps too much as this fourth victory of the season firmly cements their top five place in London 2NW, while St Albans, with only one win from their first five games, know they must improve if they are not to be dragged into a relegation dogfight.
It was St Albans, in fact, who began much the better. Thanks in no small part to their scrum dominance, they spent virtually all the first quarter of an hour firmly camped deep inside in Harps’ 22.
However, due to rock solid defence by Harps, they could not convert possession and territory into points and on 15 minutes, and much against the run of play, they suddenly found themselves behind to a breakaway try. Right wing Tris Francis pounced on a deft kick ahead by full back Aaron Wilde and, after combining well with centre Tom Stagg, touched down. Wilde then converted to make the score 7-0.
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St Albans missed the opportunity to claw some points back with two failed penalty conversion attempts on 18 and 26 minutes. Harps, though, bolstered by their try, were starting to come back into the game, although a number of attacks initiated by fly-half John Collins came to nothing.
Harps did go further ahead shortly after half-time when scrum-half Adam Wilkinson darted over for a try after a series of penalties close to the St Albans’ line. Wilde, who was to be named man-of-the match, converted to take the score to 14-0.
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St Albans, though, were by no means out of it and were finally rewarded on 61 minutes when second-row Jack Middleton powered over for a try. And seven minutes later hooker Brenton Lemaire capitalised on some sloppy Harps defending to touch down for a second try, which fly-half Harry Trude duly converted to narrow the gap to just 14-12.
But, as St Albans pressed forward again, Collins, who had enjoyed a fine afternoon, raced over a few minutes later for the best try of the afternoon to take the score to 19-12. Harps then ensured there was no way back for the visitors, who were left to console themselves at the final whistle with a losing bonus point.
Michael Goode, Harps captain for the day in place of the injured Adam Wheatley, said: “It was not pretty but a win is a win and I am pleased with the way we defended, particularly early in the first half when we just did not have any ball. When we start prepare for to our visit to Tabard on Saturday we know we will need to work on the detail and also ensure that we do the simple things well.”