Harpenden secure derby day win over St Albans
Second half show gives The Men In Black the points
London Two NW
St Albans 8 Harpenden 26
HARPENDEN produced a rousing display to beat St Albans at Boggymead Spring on Saturday.
The game began with gusto and aggression.
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St Albans had the upper hand at the opening exchanges, using their rampant pack to good effect around the fringes of the breakdown. Only efficient and staunch defending from Harpenden’s Dumbleton and Dan Tennant kept the home side at an arm’s length.
Following the early excursions Harpenden soon settled and sought to gain a controlling foothold in the contest, by combining a neat off-loading game from the forwards with rapid and rapier-like backline play. It nearly worked a treat. With centre Kearns bursting through two half-tackles feeding Barton whose pass in-turn found Smith some 30 meters out. St Albans’ scrambling defence did just enough to extinguish Harpenden’s talented backline.
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The home side’s response was forceful and calculated, with scrum-half Howard using his runners from deep on intelligent angles to force some thieving Harpenden hands in the ruck and giving St Albans full-back and kicking metronome, Kentish the chance to open the scoring. He did so with aplomb.
With a partisan home support a quick Harpenden response was critical, and they showed excellent temperament in taking the lead with some pinpoint execution. A lineout take by the towering Dumbleton enabled Tennant to get his backline motoring, and following some quick ruck ball, the captain’s pass found the hopeful hands of Payne, who side-stepped the defender and coolly finish under the posts. The conversion was missed but Harpenden held a crucial 5-3 lead.
The first half ended with chances going begging to both sides, Harpenden, despite playing against the conditions had the lion’s share of the territory, but St Albans created a chance for Kentish’s boot and another for their winger. Both were spurned.
Whatever was said by the Harpenden coaches at the half-time interval worked a treat. From a textbook training ground move full-back Barton tore through the St Albans defence, selling an audacious dummy in the process to give Harpenden the perfect start to the second period. Smith converted from a wide position and Harpenden held a 12-3 advantage.
The home side hit back after a series of testing scrums from their burly pack. Time and again their No. 8 battered away at the Harpenden line, and following a multitude of reset scrums St Albans managed to burrow their way over from close range.
The conversion drifted narrowly wide, and it remained a four point game.
From the restart Harpenden went about restoring their hard-earned advantage; from a lineout, Tennant, playing on the game-line, created uncertainty and space for Smith. The winger sliced through several tackles before being felled, but support was numerous, with Macintosh and McGee quick to present South with ball which was fed along an expectant backline.
Kearns’ soft hands again found winger Payne, who rounded the move off in style that had sent the Harpenden fans into raptures. Smith converted from the touchline with aplomb. A flurry of activity from the Harpenden bench saw their intensity and pressure remain.
South, a constant thorn in St Albans’ side, created opportunities from deep and this combined with the powerful running from the scrum’s base by McGee at No. 8 saw Harpenden maintain the upper hand.
Harpenden’s pack, despite its weight disadvantage, was competitive throughout and turned the aforementioned disadvantage into a bonus, with their greater speed over the firm ground and accuracy at the breakdown obvious throughout.
There was just enough time on the clock for the captain to round off the scoring with a piece of solo brilliance following some powerful approach play from Messer’s Dumbleton and Green, the fly-half’s show and go were gratefully accepted and he touched down under the posts for the vital bonus point score.
Harpenden: Peck M, Tennant D, Blake, Macintosh, Dumbleton, Chichester-Miles, Green, McGee, South, Tennant J �, Payne, Cooper, Kearns, Smith, Barton.