Harpenden win in derby clash

Harps survive late scare

London Two NW

Harpenden 24 Welwyn 23

HARPENDEN came out on top of the battle of the basement sides at Redbourn Lane on Saturday.

In excellent playing conditions Welwyn began the game entrenched in Harpenden’s 22, but without the killer instincts to finish many promising moves, only mustering a penalty kick for their efforts.

Harpenden, with only one win this season, opened up the day’s try scoring with an opportunistic interception as Welwyn looked to play rugby from deep. Kearns, the captain, used his guile and turn of pace to score a well-taken solo effort with just over a quarter of the game gone.

However, this only served to steel Welwyn’s resolve, with the away side opting to use their powerful back-row to good effect, keeping possession tight, only spinning the ball wide when the opportunity presented itself. The ploy worked, with the tough No.8 burrowing his way over for a well-taken team score.

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Harpenden’s response was muted, struggling at the set piece and with the elements against them in the first period. Then, from a Welwyn attack, Payne intercepted a pass from the Welwyn fly half and galloped fully 40 metres before off-loading to Kearns who found the extra lick and elusive running of Smith, who touched down under the posts. Cheered on by a vocal and partisan home team, Harpenden finished the half the stronger side. Haddock added a penalty to the Harpenden tally to create a half-time score of 17-8 to the Men in Black.

Welwyn returned to their best source of points all afternoon, kicking to the corners and patiently building sustained pressure on the Harpenden line. A five-metre scrum forced Harpenden’s pack backwards at a rate of knots, and their tight head prop was unstoppable from only a yard out. The conversion was missed, but Welwyn had the upper hand. However, the game’s momentum shifted temporarily with a counterattack that finally unleashed the Harpenden backline’s potential. A well-fielded kick from full back Musket found Haddock who scythed through several would-be tacklers before Payne’s perfectly-timed pass created space for Smith. The winger, at full tilt, beat his man for pace before slipping a sublime inside pass to centre Kearns, who finished with aplomb, enabling Haddock to add the extras.

At 24-13, and with only 15 minutes of the game remaining, the tie seemed dead and buried. The team’s respective body language also seemed to suggest the spoils were going to be Harpenden’s. However, the Men in Black are their own worst enemy at times, as they forgot to play rugby and instead continued to commit unforced errors and cough-up penalties at regular intervals. Welwyn profited from these cardinal sins, and again through their pack, gained territory and possession from which they scored a further try.

A series of scrums in the Harpenden 22 enabled Welwyn to try several times at crossing the whitewash, each time they were denied a score, first by Barton’s thumping hit, then by a brilliant cover tackle by captain Kearns, corner-flagging the Welwyn centre with the line at his mercy, and denying Welwyn a certain try. However, from the resulting scrum, Welwyn managed to score out wide as the conversion again went begging. Harpenden again coughed up possession in key areas and from further Welwyn pressure scored again, this time from a fine line from their elusive full-back.

The score came via first-up missed tackles, which created the space for the fullback to ground the ball under the posts. Inexplicably the conversion was missed from in front of the posts, handing Harpenden only their second win of the season. Welwyn will feel aggrieved at the result, having played the majority of the rugby in the second half.

Harpenden: Blake (Rickety 38), Ledgwig, Dayton, Ed, Chichester-Miles, Brown, Murphy, Purvis (Baker 35), Howard, Haddock, Payne, Kearns �, Barton, Smith (Colvin 70), Musket.