Another game in the London area with approximately an hour and a half's travel took Harpenden to the Hackney ground last week. Fortunately, motorway conditions were favourable and the team arrived well in time to give themselves a proper warm-up.
Coach Matt Davies, Captain Oli Lacey and Director of Rugby Chris Eke must have been happy when they woke up on Sunday morning (assuming they had gone to bed the night before) after a performance against a bewildered Hackney XV who conceded eleven tries set against their sole reply of one. Last week, Captain Oli Lacey had not been impressed by his team's first defeat of the season. Both he and coach Davies had obviously put in a great deal of work to find a solution. As a result, Harpenden remain top of the table with an exceptionally high points difference.
The disappointing performance the week before proved, among other things, the dangers of being complacent. This time there was no comparison. The wind was fair and played a minor part in the outcome and the appetite for a competitive game was much improved. Admittedly, the quality of opposition was not as strong. Nevertheless the deed was done. Eleven tries to the one scored by the home side's James Legg.
No sooner had the whistle blown for the start of the match than Nick Childs ran in a great try. Five more were to follow in the first-half: Trish Francis, Jimmy Speirs, Lacey and, Adam Wilkinson (2.) Ollie Mann converted three (the wind being partly to blame for two of the missed kicks) and also managed to score from a penalty in front of the posts so Harpenden turned round at half-time 39-3 ahead, Hackney's points coming from a successful kick from Afkham.
The second half was similar to the first. After some resistance Harpenden's pack fired up again. And the presence of scrum-half Mark 'Sparky' Evans this week encouraged the backs to find their rhythm whilst Mann and Speirs kept their cool throughout, leading by example. Further tries were scored by: Mann (2,) George Attfield, Ed 'the tractor' Preston and Luke Barber. As a combination, Mann and Evans were particularly impressive with Barber playing his usual steady game. With the influence of Speirs to the fore the Harpenden wings Wilkinson and Francis continued to enjoy their afternoon.
Substitutes Sean Longdon, Jack Pennell and Max Baggio all played a part, the latter scoring his try with a great turn of speed. Despite the fact that Hackney temporarily lost a man to a yellow card the result was settled. Mention should be made in the final analysis that the forwards all played their role in suppressing any opposition. Preston filling in for a while at number 8 and/or lock for the injured Michael Goode, complemented flankers Attfield and Ryan Gue whilst Alex Randall had one of his better games. It was a day to celebrate.
Team: McLoughlin; Randall; G. Rolfe; T. Rolfe; Lacey (capt); Gue; Attfield; Preston; Evans; Mann; Wilkinson; Child; Speirs; Francis; Barber
Subs Longdon; Pennell; Baggio.
The next match is on 11th Nov at Home against Belsize Park (kick-off TBA but rumoured to be 2:30pm) following a club lunch and expectations will be high. Our President will be in attendance following his recent tour of the North East. Rumour has it he was sourcing jokes for his speech.