'Ball is in their court' as Harpenden Rugby Club await news of appeal over their promotion hopes
PUBLISHED: 10:39 18 April 2018 | UPDATED: 10:39 18 April 2018
Harpenden Rugby Club are waiting on news of an appeal after having the celebrations of making the promotion play-offs in London North Two brought to a shuddering halt by a clerical error with the RFU's results service.
A 39-31 bonus-point win over Hampstead at Redbourn Lane on Saturday seemed to have sent Harpenden into a play-off with Sudbury for promotion to London North One.
It left Harps one point and one place above their north London rivals and had sparked joyous scenes among the huge crowd.
But it turned out that the points showing on the official RFU website were wrong after an extra point was added erroneously to Harpenden’s total earlier in the campaign.
And when that was amended late into Saturday evening, Harpenden were left level on points and as per competition rules dropped down a place having won fewer games than Hampstead over the course of the season.
Chairman Darren Francey explained the current situation.
He said: “We have put an appeal into county but that was dismissed.
“The reply I got said this was a genuine mistake by the results service for which they accepted responsibility.
“But there’s an option to review the decision so we have submitted that, highlighting the points we are raising.
“The ball is very much in their court.”
He added that the team had gone into the game knowing exactly what was required and played accordingly and that the outcome was “a real kick in the teeth” for all concerned.
“I’ve been with the club for 36 years and Saturday was one of my best days,” he said. “The bar was packed with hundreds of people, the sun was shining and we won.
“It was just a brilliant day out and it’s a shame it has come to this.
“Next year is our 100th year and the whole season was geared around winning promotion to London One.”
It has left the players in limbo, with no training done so far this week as the uncertainty lingers.
The match itself saw Harpenden take the lead on 15 minutes with a try by Nick Childs, converted by Ollie Mann, following a break by fellow centre Luke Barber.
Hampstead quickly hit back with a try of their own from Jonty Hallett before Harps flanker Ed Preston restored the points differential with his second try in two games.
But within a minute the pendulum swung back the other way and Hampstead equalised following a try under the posts by Dan Wigley, converted by Dan Dimoline.
But Harpenden were playing some lovely flowing rugby and it was no surprise when Preston touched down again and the try everybody was waiting for arrived five minutes from half-time through Matt Wells.
It meant a 29-12 lead at the break, and when Max Baggio scored the hosts’ fifth try on 56 minutes, it seemed to most spectators that the game was but over.
But tries from James Glaysher and Alex Brook in the space of three minutes rudely jolted the home team out of any sense of complacency they might have been feeling, and more importantly, gave Hampstead what turned out to be a vital bonus point.
Jack Pennell steadied their nerves somewhat with a sixth Harpenden try but they returned with a fifth Hampstead score, touched down by Ajay Olufemi.
It set up what supporters felt was an incredibly tense finale but it turned out the real drama was still a few hours away.