Perfect tonic ahead of huge Belsize Park clash for Harps

Jack Pennell got the opening try for Harpenden against Hampstead. Picture: Karyn Haddon

Jack Pennell got the opening try for Harpenden against Hampstead. Picture: Karyn Haddon - Credit: Archant

Harpenden gave themselves the perfect tonic ahead of their top of the table clash with Belsize Park by beating old enemies Hampstead 45-23.

The result keeps Harpenden second and five points behind Park, and four ahead of Chiswick, in the race for promotion from London Two North West, although they have played a game more than either of their two rivals.

And while the leaders will provide a tough test for the Redbourn Lane-based rugby club, this victory on a breezy Hampstead Heath shows they have the skill and determination needed to get the job done.

They suffered an early blow when Billy Sach was carried off the pitch following a double tackle with damage to his ankle.

But no sooner had the game restarted when a chip from full-back Will Hales enabled winger Jack Pennell to steal in and touch down.

The next score came when Rory Cox, Sach’s replacement, made an incisive break and flicked the ball quickly to Tom Sweeney who in turn gave fly-half Ollie Mann the easiest of chances to score.

But after this optimistic start, Harpenden let themselves down by conceding a series of penalties, with Hampstead kicking two of them, and a yellow card to George Rolfe allowed the hosts even more of an advantage.

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It all meant that by half-time Hampstead led 18-17 with two tries, one of them converted, adding to those earlier kicks.

Mann though had kept Harpenden in touch with his second try of the day that was converted by Sweeney.

And it was the second half that proved to be decisive from a Harpenden point of view.

They scored four tries in answer to just one from Hampstead with Hales, Adam Wheatley, Ed Preston and Adam Wilkinson right on the stroke of full-time all crossing the line.

Sweeney added all four kicks to those scores to add the exclamation point to the victory.

Man of the match as voted for by Hampstead went to Wilkinson who left his normal position on the wing to produce a powerful display in the centres.

Harpenden: Sean McLoughlin, Peter Simms, Ben Campion, Ed Preston, Oli Lacey, Michael Goode, Ryan Gue, Adam Wheatley, Fred Gulliford, Ollie Mann, Billy Sach, Tom Sweeney, Adam Wilkinson, Jack Pennell, Will Hales. Replacements: George Rolfe, Jack Murphy, Rory Saunders.