Stirling scores late to seal win
- Credit: Archant
A dazzling 40 yard run by left wing Adam Stirling gave Harpenden a dramatic last gasp victory.
With the 80 minutes almost up he launched one of his trademark breaks to touch down under the posts to break HAC hearts.
In maintaining their 100 per cent start to the season against a team that had defeated them twice last year, Harps also firmly secured their grip on second place in London Two North West.
The win, however, had seemed unlikely at half-time when they trailed 17-10 after a combination of basic handling errors and lack of discipline had begun to cost them dear.
Harps had begun well enough, though, deservedly taking the lead on 10 minutes with an Aaron Wilde penalty conversion after HAC had been pinged for offside near their try line as they sought to halt an attack.
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However, on 20 minutes the City side hit back when an overlap on the left wing enabled wing Stephen Jenkins to score in the corner.
And five minutes later they went further ahead after a well-worked move ended with flanker Ben Rees racing through the middle to touch down under the posts.
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Harps scrum half Adam Wilkinson reduced the deficit on 30 minutes when he darted through a gap in the HAC defence for a sweet try, which Wilde converted to take the score to 12-10
But HAC full back Rory Price then scored a few minutes later in the right hand corner shortly after Harps second row Oli Lacey had been yellow-carded for holding on the floor.
Worse was to follow for Harps eight minutes after the break when flanker David Green was sin-binned for a high tackle, which meant that for a short period they were reduced to playing with 13 men.
However, they held firm and, benefitting from the yellow carding of a HAC prop, started to hit back. Too often, though, their attacks came to nothing due to poor handling and offloading.
But, with their opponents starting to tire, they were eventually rewarded with a try under the posts by replacement back Yannick Green, the result of a wonderful break by right wing Ash Smith. Wilde converted to even the score at 17-17.
Sensing they could now win, Harps tried desperately to go for kill. But, with time starting to slip away, the game had seemed destined to end in a draw until Stirling cut loose to score a wonderful individual try, which Wilde converted.
Nick Childs, stand-in skipper for the day in place of the unavailable Adam Wheatley, admitted to mixed emotions as he walked off the pitch at full time.
“We really should have put the game to bed much earlier on,” he said. “After 10 minutes, I thought ‘We’re going to win this’, but then mistakes and poor discipline started to cost us.
“At half-time we had a good chat and decided on 10 things we had to do. We probably achieved only two of them, but, with our fitness also coming into play in the closing 20 minutes, it was just enough.
“A win is a win though and with a two week gap until our next match on 11 October we’ve got time to regroup and try to iron out the errors in our game.”
Team: Francis, Smith, Wilde, Childs, Stirling, Wilkinson, Collins, McLoughlin, Jones, M Peck, T Rolfe, Lacey, D Green, Kelsall, Goode. Replacements: Y Green, McGhee, Peglar