Harpenden squander half time advantage
London Two NW
Hemel Hempstead 29 Harpenden 20
THE rollercoaster season at Harpenden Rugby Club continued for another week.
A strong team performance two weeks ago saw The Men In Black overcome Grasshoppers in convincing fashion, partly making amends for an abysmal loss away to UCS Old Boys the previous week, but this week they threw away a 20-point lead in defeat to Hemel. This week the Men in Black made the short trip to Hemel and, despite having some influential players missing, things began well.
Playing down the slope and with the elements behind them, Harpenden made the advantage tell by scoring an early try when Matt Peck crashed over to settle things down.
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The tempo was maintained as the forwards continued to make good yards and the backs kept things tight and simple.
Perhaps predictably given the conditions, the majority of rugby was played in the Hemel half and eventually the pressure told as Rob Healey – in his first game back for four months – dived over from close range to extend the lead. Haddock added the extras.
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Hemel came fighting back and used their big runners well to go close on a couple of occasions, however they failed to trouble the scoreboard. A further penalty from Haddock and a fine backs try finished by Kearns saw Harpenden take a 20-0 lead into the interval.
The old adage ‘a game of two halves’ could not have been a more suitable description of what happened next.
Almost from the kick off things began to go wrong for Harpenden, as Hemel slowly took control of the game.
Whilst in the loose things were still relatively even, the set piece began to be dominated by the home side as they disrupted both the visitors’ scrums and line outs. This unrelenting pressure from the Hemel forwards eventually saw them crash over for a well deserved try and this was shortly followed by a couple more in similar fashion.
By this stage the wheels had all but come off the Harpenden wagon, however with a slender lead some senior players attempted to calm the nerves and restore some structure and composure.
Unfortunately the advice was not heeded as hotheadedness resulted in two yellow cards and Harpenden being reduced to 13 for a period. The injuries to back rows Hoare and Graham exacerbated things and Hemel took full advantage of the collapse as they ran in two more tries to seal the victory.
Harpenden have maintained their second place in the league and their play off hopes, however some might question how they are so high up the league with a 40 minute performance such as this.
With third placed Chiswick the next opponents, some focus and regrouping is needed if they hope to come away with the points.
Whilst Harpenden were the architects of their downfall on Saturday, recognition must go to Hemel for the way the came back from behind to take the victory.
Harpenden: Peck, Murphy, Ledwidge, Dumbleton, Green, Mcghee, Graham, Hoare, Healey, Tennant, Francis, Cooper, Kearns, Payne, Haddock. Lacey, Chichester-Miles, Thompson