Harpenden maintain 100 per cent record

Harpenden second in London 2 NW

London 2 NW

Welwyn 12 Harpenden 29

Harpenden continued their good form with their first four-try bonus point victory away at Welwyn on Saturday. The Men in Black’s forwards produced their best 40 minutes of rugby of the season, but their normally dependable backs failed to sparkle initially. From the outset Harpenden, with Jonny Macdonald at the helm, dominated proceedings in spite of playing into the strong wind and up the slope.

Messer’s Peck and Hoare created serious inroads in the home side’s defense creating gaps out-wide, but a combination of over-running the pass and sloppy handling contributed to Welwyn’s try line remaining intact. On at least four separate occasions in the first half alone Harpenden squandered opportunities to score, but their collective patience paid off in the 30th minute when winger Smith scored his third try in as many games.

A quickly-taken tap penalty by Alan Barton surprised the Welwyn defense, and his scurrying run found Kearns who found the grateful hands of Smith, who powered his way over from 10 yards. The conversion was missed, but Harpenden found themselves in the ascendency.

A move that started in Harpenden’s half, culminated in centre Jonny Barton burrowing his way over after good work from Payne and Peck. The diminutive centre stepped up and added the extras from the touchline to cement the Men in Black’s position as half time approached.

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Despite their advantage on the scoreboard and with the wind and slope to their advantage Harpenden were expected to finish the game and garner the bonus point quickly. Welwyn had other ideas; they tightened up their fringe attacks and played a less expansive game, waiting for Harpenden to infringe. In their haste, Harpenden infringed at the breakdown and were continually marched back as the penalty count climbed.

Despite this Harpenden’s black wall of defense marshaled by flanker Barton didn’t look like leaking. However, in the 60th minute Welwyn’s backrow broke down the blindside and, despite the close attentions of Kearns and Hoare dotted down out wide. The conversion was missed, but Welwyn began to ooze confidence. Their second score came from the restart and was courtesy of several missed tackles. Despite the attentions of MacDonald and the fact the Welwyn’s player had a foot in touch, Welwyn were awarded the score and to add insult to injury, the touchline conversion was nailed. Winger Haddock, an earlier replacement for the injured Muskett, was himself replaced by Captain Tennant, who steadied the rickety Harpenden ship. Harpenden’s forward’s learnt their lessons quickly, ensuring the breakdown and tackle area where clear of black shirts to avoid any doubt. The trick worked, and a charged-down kick by Dumbleton enabled MacDonald to jot down under the posts, to establish Harpenden’s seven point lead. The Men in Black then played 15 minutes of intelligent rugby, retaining possession and kicking the corners with unerring accuracy. Harpenden’s tactics eventually paid dividends, with Dumbleton exploiting numbers in Welwyn’s defense, cantering past the fullback to present Barton with a kickable opportunity, the lead was extended to 14. With the last kick of the game Harpenden’s mercurial number 13, Barton, added three points to his personal tally of 14 for the day, to condemn Welwyn to another loss.

arpenden lie second in the London Two NW table and they welcome West London to Redbourn Lane this Saturday.

Harpenden: Jali, Tennant D, Blake, Dumbleton, Hoare, Peck, A Barton, Watkins, Humphreys, MacDonald, Muskett, Kearns, Barton J, Smith and Payne.

Reps: Whey for Watkins (65mins), Haddock for Muskett (10mins) and Haddock for Tennant (55mins).