Harpenden march on against Medics

London North West Three Imperial Medics 13 Harpenden 27 THE Men in Black travelled to Medics on the back of a resounding victory against high-flying Hampstead the previous weekend. Traditionally a well-oiled Medics team lay in wait, with the university si

London North West Three

Imperial Medics 13 Harpenden 27

THE Men in Black travelled to Medics on the back of a resounding victory against high-flying Hampstead the previous weekend. Traditionally a well-oiled Medics team lay in wait, with the university side always proficient in springing a surprise with the resources at their disposal. Harpenden absorbed the loss of Haddock and Bunn with the arrival of Cross and John Collins, the former last year's Harpenden national-winning U17s' captain.

On a surface which welcomed running rugby both sides obliged with both sets of backs seeing plenty of possession and freedom. An early infringement by the Medics open-side resulted in an early opportunity for Barton to ease his side into the lead which went begging.

Early indications were good; with both sides winning quick ball and maintaining pressure at the business end of the pitch. Harpenden struck first with a searing break by Kearns from deep allowing Barton space to create an overlap for Musket to try his luck but Medics defence scuttled across to snuffle out the opening. However, from the resulting lineout talisman Dumpleton disrupted Medics ball which fortuitously found the ample arms of Dan Tennant, who in-turn offloaded to Dumpleton again, who leapt over the line for his second score in two games.

With the conversion from a difficult angle missed, Medics roared back into the match with a series of blistering breaks by their dangerous half backs. With Homan, the Harpenden scrum half, disrupting Medics' flow it was only a matter of time before the away side's infringements turned to points, and with it the Medics kicker promptly stepped up and steered the ball through the arches for three points. Further opportunities were offered and subsequently squandered by both sides in an open game of flowing rugby, punctuated only when players on both sides needed a rest. A further Medics penalty gave the home side a slight 6-5 advantage at the break.

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With the Harpenden coaches' words still resonating in the players' minds, the Men in Black set about restoring their lead and fought aggressively at the breakdowns. As ever, captain Tennant dropped a pin-point chip-kick into the Medics 22 and the chasing pack putting the requisite pressure on, forced a lineout some 15 metres from the whitewash.

With Cornthwaite taking the ball with aplomb, the Harpenden backs roared into life with some well-timed and precise passes, allowing the flying Musket to snipe in at the corner.

The conversion out-wide was missed, but Harpenden, clearly fired-up by this, found themselves in a similar position only minutes later. This time at a Medics lineout the ball broke invitingly to Joe Tennant who smashed and skipped his way through the m�l�e to score another splendid try. Barton added the conversion with simplicity, and in-doing so stretched his side's lead to 17-6, with just 12 minutes played in the second half.

Worse was to come for the Medics as a mix-up in their attacking line allowed predator Reed to pounce on the loose ball, via a comical facial deflection, and gallop untouched to the Medics line, which was further compounded by Barton adding a further two points to Harpenden's handsome total.

Medics, in truth, were unlucky to be so far adrift after three excellent phases of play by the league-leaders and they set-about gaining a foot-hold in a game they were quickly falling from.

A series of penetrative kicks from their talented fly-half resulted in excellent bases from which to attack the Harpenden line. Every time Medics attacked they were repelled by the excellent defence marshalled by kicker Barton and the ever-impressive Jimmy Speirs. Waves of runners ran aground on Barton as the defensive lynch-pin stood firm, allowing Peck, Cornthwaite and Arrowsmith greater opportunities to pilfer the ball.

With Kearns shepherding his defence so well it was a crunching tackle that sidelined the winger with a nasty facial injury that resulted in a first team debut for John Collins. The diminutive winger endeared himself to his team-mates almost instantly with some brave counter-attacking in the face of a fierce rearguard action by the Medics. The Harpenden scrum was under pressure, but with Cross, Peck and Dan Tennant battling hard after a series of nine scrums in 11 minutes, Medics finally forced their way over the line, with number eight Arrowsmith in the bin for a team offence. That should have heralded a resurgent Medics side, with a little over 10 minutes left and with a one man advantage, a chance at rejoining the race for the lead.

However, Harpenden's diligent and abrasive defence constantly frustrated the would-be doctors and from one such scrap for the ball, a penalty was awarded some 35 meters out. Up-stepped Barton and Harpenden were rewarded with three, well-taken points.

With time running out for the home-side their attempts to unsettle Harpenden reached comical propositions when their second row attempted to re-write the RFU's definition of the offside rule by running round the Harpenden ruck and playing the Harpenden ball.

The final five or so minutes were played out with both sides flying into contact with the Medics in the ascendancy in the tight and the Harpenden backs always threatening to cut loose.

Harpenden: Cross, D.Tennant, Peck (P.Collins 75), Cornthwaite, Dumpleton (Nel 70), Hoare, Read, Arrowsmith, Homan, J.Tennant, Barton J, Speirs, Musket, Kearns (J.Collins 60), A.Barton.