Last gasp try seal opening day Harpenden triumph

Action from Harpenden's win over Old Haberdashers.

Action from Harpenden's win over Old Haberdashers. - Credit: Archant

Towards the end of full time it looked as if Harpenden had thrown the chance of winning their opening league match of the 2014-15 season.

Action from Harpenden's win over Old Haberdashers.

Action from Harpenden's win over Old Haberdashers. - Credit: Archant

Old Haberdashers had just scored a good try, through centre Steve Roberts, to go two points clear of their hosts. It had been 18-16 in the home team’s favour for some time, and now they were three points adrift with just five minutes remaining.

On paper, they should have had a distinct advantage as OH don’t train on a formal basis and rely more on flair than hard graft. In fact, in their squad they boasted two internationals at No.8 and hooker, from Sweden and Switzerland respectively, and several highly tuned athletes.

Not long after Robert’s excellent try, Harpenden’s Aaron Wilde was presented with a long-range opportunity to bring the teams level, which he did with aplomb from the 10m line. Almost immediately after that, a move that involved most of the Harpenden back line ended up with Tristan Francis going over about 10 metres from the left hand touch. Wilde converted; the referee blew for full time; and, Harpenden had won their first league match by 28 points to 21.

Earlier, with the sun behind them, Harpenden had started off at a furious pace but it wasn’t long before they carelessly gave away a penalty on their 10-metre line; OH scrum half Tim Walker just managed to slot the ball over with his reliable left foot. The Old Haberdashers impressed for a while with their pack and strong running back line but a clever kick from centre Nick Childs, and some equally tricky footwork from Tristan Francis, resulted in a try to Harpenden to add to an earlier penalty scored by Francis that put them into a lead 8-3. A penalty apiece from Walker and Wilde meant the score soon read 11-6, at which stage a forlorn Yannick Green -Harpenden’s fly half - had to leave the pitch because of an injury to his nose.

Despite the fact that OH were beginning to have the edge in the tight scrums and lineouts, Harpenden’s defence stood up and counter-attacked whenever possible. It was from one such move that captain and No 8, Adam Wheatley, combined with flank Dave Green to storm the OH line from which position Adam Wilkinson dived over to score another 5points. By the time the whistle went at the end of the first half OH had been awarded another penalty and Walker made no mistake, bringing his total to three and the score to 18-9.

Changes were made at the break with George Rolfe given a chance to show his power up front. When 2nd row Andy Harris scored for the visitors it looked like he was walking through a pair of curtains, and that word came to mind when Roberts did his bit late in the game. The score had gone from 18-9 to 18-21 in OH’s favour, in the space of a few minutes. But, inspired by the pack, in particular their captain who had been displaying his ball playing skills all afternoon, and some cool goal kicking from Wilde, the team held their own and eventually came out the winners.

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Next week, Harpenden go to Hemel Hempstead for their second league match.