Harpenden soar high up the table after six-try romp over Eton Manor
PUBLISHED: 16:33 23 December 2019 | UPDATED: 10:55 28 December 2019
Christmas came early for Harpenden as they avenged a narrow early season defeat by Eton Manor with a comprehensive 41-28 victory in front of the biggest crowd of the season at Redbourn Lane.
The six-try success means they are now sixth in the table and just five points off second.
The victory owed much to a superb first-half performance in which they ran in four tries in a blistering 30-minute spell.
And although the visitors came back well in the last 20 minutes to secure a try bonus point, the final result was never in doubt.
Harpenden went ahead in the second minute with Tom Sweeney slotting a penalty from the half-way line. Three minutes later teenage left-wing Dan James fly-hacked a charge down to score a superb try under the posts, which Sweeney duly converted.
On 14 minutes Adam Wilkinson, drafted in as an emergency scrum-half, darted over for a try after a line-out deep in Manor's 22.
Try number three arrived on the half-hour with James scorching in for his second try and five minutes later Jimmy Speirs brought up the bonus point, capitalising on a turnover.
All three tries were converted by Sweeney.
Manor continued to put up spirited opposition and were rewarded with a try of their own in the final play of the half when Frank Sullivan crashed over from a short distance.
Cameron Dutch's conversion made it 31-7 at the break.
Wilkinson helped to himself to his second try on 55 minutes but a yellow card for Harpenden's Conor McClean for a deliberate knock-on allowed Manor to notch two quickfire tries, the first from Mike Sage, converted by Dutch, and the second a penalty try.
Prop Harvey Beaton, who enjoyed a great afternoon, steadied the ship for the home side with a sixth try but with two further yellow cards for Wilkinson and replacement Luke Govier, Manor hit back with a fourth try from Jamie Milais on 75 minutes.
They were unable to add a further score.
Harps skipper Oli Lacey said: "If you had offered me this score before the match I would have grabbed it with both hands.
"But we are a little disappointed to have let them back into the game because in the first half we played some of the best rugby we have played all season."
Harpenden's next game is at Colchester on January 4.