Poor decisions cost Harpenden against Hampstead.
HARPENDEN head coach James Alvis believes his team has what it takes to mount a late surge into the top half of the league despite winning just two games since November.
Saturday was another disappointing game for Alvis. Harps almost overturned a 14-point deficit with a try from Andy Read and three points from Jack Haddock, but poor decisions stopped short a comeback as Harps lost 17-10.
Time after time the hosts were penalised, handing the advantage to Harps, but far too often the wrong option was chosen and the chance to score passed.
“We didn’t have a true No.10,” admitted Alvis.
“Simon Payne did a good job in the role but in pressure situations I think he allowed the forwards to crowd his judgement. I don’t blame them for that – they wanted take the game to Hampstead.
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“We didn’t turn our possession into points. And without an in-form kicker I didn’t want to ask one of the players to do it so we didn’t get enough worth when we were in the scoring zone.”
Harpenden fell behind after just 10 minutes against Hampstead, back row forward Lewis Hazelton touching down, which fly half Morgan Cohens duly converted. A few minutes later, number 8, John Beswick, was credited with a further try for the home team.
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Facing a two possession deficit, Harpenden’s forwards found a footing in the game and looked capable of giving Hampstead a contest backed up by the new half back pairing of Payne and Jack Haddock.
Following a spell of pressure near the Hampstead 22, Read went over from the back row for a deserved score. Centre Aaron Wilde converted to bring the teams within seven points.
From the restart, Harpenden seemed to have improved: the rucking was fiercer; their line out men of Nigel Stanley and Ed Preston got more ball; the backs attempted to throw the ball around.
Having conceded another penalty that was successfully struck by left-footed Cohens, Harpenden’s Aaron Wilde had a chance to get even. He was unlucky with a kick that soared just over the right upright. When the next penalty was awarded, up stepped Haddock who took the chance to get his team another three points.
Harpenden were within touching distance but they ran out of time as Hampstead ran out 17-10 winners, leaving the visitors to ponder what might have been.
Harpenden could be forgiven for feeling downtrodden but Alvis says his team has what it takes to win their final five games, which include clashes against table toppers Tabard and Hemel Hempstead.
“No team in the league scares me,” said Alvis. “It has been an up and down season with everyone beating everyone, but I’m really pleased with how we have done – we are mid table, which is a credit to the boys.”
Harpenden have three home games against Fullerians, St Albans and Hammersmith, all of which Alvis called “winnable,” before the crunch games against the top of the table pair.
“Hemel are always a strong team but we could easily go into that game as a competitive unit. The same goes for Tabard.
“We were terrible in our first meeting but if we had played our best we could have won. I’m confident that, with a bit of momentum, we will challenge them.”
Alvis is hoping to get the final stretch of the season off to a strong start with a win against Fullerians at home on Saturday.