Thrilling end to derby

London 2 North West

Harpenden 32 St Albans 28

HARPENDEN edged out St Albans in an end-to-end local derby at Redbourn Lane.

An early Mark Kentish kick had allowed St Albans an early lead which their combative and forceful forwards’ play had merited.

Prior to the points garnered by the boot of Kentish, Harpenden’s flanker Ireland received a 10 minute sin-binning for not releasing the ball.

St Albans then produced a fine back’s move which culminated in fullback Kentish crashing over out wide, following good hands from Howard and excellent running lines off the ball. With the score 8-0, and reduced to 14 men, Harpenden were facing the prospect of a difficult 20 minutes prior to half time.

However, the home side regained their composure and produced a sublime 10 minutes of fluid irrepressible rugby.

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A well-worked line out enabled the Herculean figure of Chichester-Miles to make inroads into St Albans’ half, before quick ball, first to Tennant then to Kearns, enabled Muskett to sprint away from the cover defense. His kick and chase attempt was thwarted by the St Albans wing, but the provider turned scorer as Kearns leapt on the loose ball, to bring Harpenden their first score. From the kick-off Harpenden produced several more moments of brilliance, with Kearns and Humphries slicing through, only to be felled at the last.

A speculative chip from St Albans found the gleeful hands of Alan Barton, who, catching the defense flat-footed, sped away from three tackles before off-loading to Smith. With the ball being kept alive despite the attentions of the St Albans defence, the ball found its way to captain Tennant who powered away from the cover to score with aplomb under the posts. The conversion was added, and Harpenden led 12-8.

As the embers of the first half began to fade the two teams reignited the fire with some inspiring pyrotechnics.

St Albans quickly regathered their lead following two well-taken penalty kicks from Kentish, gently pushing the scores along to 14-12. Harpenden’s response was emphatic with Jonny Barton scrapping and fighting his was through two or three would-be defenders to score from just inside the 22.

The finish was as good as the build-up play which owed a lot to Harpenden’s consistency at lineout time, Cornthwaite this time securing good, clean ball. Several phases of play, combining brute force with beauty, enabled a sliver of light on which Barton capitalized fully. St Albans, stubborn visitors, began to find their feet for the fight, with Howard, Lane and Morette all gaining metres around the inside channels. Quick ruck ball from St Albans, and the visitors struck with precision, fly-half Howard delaying his pass to the on-rushing centre to crash under the posts for seven points.

Substitute Green used his dancing shoes and reach to out-strip two defenders to crash over in the corner, and Harpenden regained the lead yet again.

St Albans soon cancelled it out with a further score of their own, to again provide the spectators with some quick math to do.

With St Albans in the box seat and leading by six points, Harpenden regained their composure to produce five minutes of excellent defence. The forwards dismissed wave after wave of blue and gold attack, and through Jali produced the turnover that gave Harpenden a chance to get back into the tie.

From the turnover, Harpenden sent several runners into St Albans’ narrow channels, before substitute Payne threw a well-directed pass to the on-hand Kearns who turned on the gas to score from 40 metres.

The Men in Black’s tails were up. Harpenden’s forwards again produced some quick ball from which Tennant combined well with Barton, whose wide angled pass found Smith.

From the resulting ruck Kearns again turned provider to give Musket a chance to settle the tie there and then. The speedster turned on the gas and slid in at the corner, and following a consultation with the linesman the score was awarded. Harpenden led 32-28. With St Albans having tried everything in their repertoire the referee blew his whistle on a pulsating fixture.