Forwards power Harpenden to promotion play-off place after win over Hackney

Adam Wheatley scored two tries for Harpenden against Hackney.
Picture: Karyn Haddon

Adam Wheatley scored two tries for Harpenden against Hackney. Picture: Karyn Haddon - Credit: Archant

It was time to cue Etta James at Harpenden as they sealed their promotion play-off place at last with a 36-17 home win over Hackney.

The Redbourn Lane-based rugby club have flirted with promotion for the last few years and were even stripped of their second place last season after an administrative mistake by the league was discovered.

A defeat to Grasshoppers seven days earlier had caused a few nerves ahead of the game against their relegation-threatened visitors but the six-try success sets up a home play-off game against either Romford & Gidea Park or Stowmarket on April 13.

As has been the case for so often this year, the win was built on a solid forwards display with the power of the pack bagging all six scores.

Injuries in the backs meant Harry Ling and Henry Simcott were drafted in from the U18 side and the youngsters gave a good account of themselves.

In front of a large crowd, the forwards ensured Harps quickly took control of the game and it brought the first try of the game on eight minutes from hooker Pete Sims, converted by Simcott.

Hackney hit back with a good try of their own from Yinks Busari 10 minutes later but two tries before half-time from number eight Adam Wheatley, the second converted, to give Harps a 19-5 lead at the break.

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The second half though began disastrously for the home side with Rory Saunders and Adam Wilkinson both being yellow carded within minutes of each other.

And exploiting the numerical advantage, Hackney scored a try through Ollie Jenner.

However, it was the next try that was to prove the most crucial as Sims went over for his second and more importantly the all-so vital bonus point.

Hackney’s captain, Joe Askham, reduce the deficit once again to one score and Harpenden’s hopes were also hit by an injury to Fred Gulliford.

But the Harps pack wrestled back control of the game and a brace in the closing minutes through flanker Michael Goode, the second of which was converted by Hales, sealed the win.

Skipper Oli Lacey said: “This was a really tough game. There was a weight of expectation on us and we had to contend with a lot of injuries, although the young players who came in did really well.

“We were not at our best today, but we did what we had to do.”