Failure to convert first half supremacy into more points proved fatal for Harpenden when they slipped to a narrow defeat against lowly-placed Enfield Ignatians at a blustery Donkey Lane.
Although they remain firmly in third place in London Two North West, their early season dream of championship glory is beginning to fade as the two teams above them - HAC and Hampstead - both won.
Harps skipper Oli Lacey was brutally honest in his post-match assessment, saying: "We deserved to lose today. We should have scored four tries in the first half but only got one whereas Enfield were more clinical when they needed to be." Harps, aided by the slope and the wind, began well and it came as little surprise when number eight Ed Preston touched down on 20 minutes following a scrum on the Enfield five-metre line that saw the home pack driven back over the try line. Stand-off Ollie Mann duly added the extra points.
Although Harps then spent much of the remainder of the first half in the Enfield half, they were unable to turn their dominance into more points - and when the half-time whistle blew there was a feeling among many spectators that they might well rue their inability to find the jugular come 80 minutes. Enfield, grateful to be only seven points adrift, looked a different proposition in the second half and soon had Harps on the back foot. The breakthrough duly came on 58 minutes when their skipper and stand-off Jake Bates darted through a gap to touch down under the posts for a try he then converted to level the scores at 7-7. Harps tried to rally but by now Enfield had wrested control of the game and it was no surprise when five minutes later Bates scored a second try, which he again converted. The try galvanised Harps into action and they should have scored 10 minutes from time following a quick counter attack. But try as they might, they could find no way through the home defence and at a crucial moment lost possession of the ball - and with it their last chance of redemption.
Harps' next game is against Tabard on Saturday at Redbourn Lane. KO 2.30pm
Harpenden: Sweeney, Wilkinson, McLean, Tane, Gulliford; Mann, Moyle, McLoughlin, Sims, G Rolfe, T Rolfe, Lacey, Owen, Attfield, Preston. Replacements: Mills, Randall, Sullivan-Warner