Harpenden 58 Tabard 7

London 2 NW 3 Feb 2018

Harpenden's win Includes hat-tricks for Wheatley and Randall

It was wet and cold but fortunately the wind stayed away except when immediately before play a lone bag-piper welcomed both teams with a blast of musical welcome Scottish-style to mark the start of the Six Nations competition. It was meant as a reminder, too, that Scotland seemed to be becoming a resurgent force in international rugby once more. Regrettably, Wales soon put paid to that early pre-match optimism. As to Harpenden, when Alex Randall flopped over for his team's tenth try late in the game he completed a well-taken hat-trick; it was a fitting moment for the hooker turned back-row. His colleague making a return to the first team after a spell away was former captain Adam Wheatley, playing this week at number 8. His tries all scored in the first half comprised a mixture of well-taken and excellent, in particular the second which he scored after he had beaten three attempts at tackles by the Tabard defence. His third was timely and scored just before the end of the first period of play.

Harpenden had started aggressively and Jordan Sullivan-Warner had created the first of Randall's tries through a strong break down the left touch. Warner then fed off the determined running of Ed Preston to go over after 25 minutes of play, Ollie Mann managed to convert two of the tries in difficult conditions and Harpenden turned round with a lead of 29 points to nil. In the second half HRFC achieved no more than in the preceding period of play and they also conceded a try - scored by Tabard's John Tilley (conversion Jack Riley). Last time these two teams met, Harpenden's enjoyed the luxury of getting 70 or so points. Whether it was the conditions - a lot of passes went astray - the statutory unopposed scrums, or the lack of some of their star players due to injury it is hard to say but the visitors were treated more kindly this time. As for Tabard, it must be difficult for any player in a team that has conceded so many tries this year to motivate himself beyond a certain limit. Randall's second try came from a superb break after about an hour's play by Sullivan-Warner; then linking with Adam Wilkinson who gave Randall the chance to go over. Ollie Mann at fly-half converted this one and the eighth after the reliable Ed Preston forced his way over. By this time uncontested scrums were in vogue due to front-row problems. In the interim period, Tabard had been awarded a number of penalties that they decided to use by opting for the quick penalty tap. It didn't get them very far and it was 20 minutes before their backs had penetrated the Harpenden half.

In the end stolid defence kept the visitors at bay. In the second period Randall; Preston; Sullivan-Warner and, Adam Wilkinson scored five tries between them in a team effort that owed as much to the forwards as to the backs. Ollie Mann's boot converted two more bringing him a total of four in the match.

Captain Oli Lacey, looking relaxed for a man who had been obliged to prop instead of appearing in his customary position as a formidable second-row, suggested he was 'happy but' -meaning, probably, that Harpenden had thrown away the chance to score more.

Oli must be hoping for a quick return of prop Sean McCloughlin who was believed to be suffering from the result of a small bang on the head from the game against Enfield Ignatians. Unlike his French counterparts on Saturday in the match against Ireland, his legs are allegedly in perfect working order.

Squad: Tom Sweeney; Fred Gulliford; Adam Wilkinson; Conor McClean; Jordan Sullivan-Warner; Oliver Mann; Callum Moyle; Aaron Ledwidge; Peter Sims; Oliver Lacey; Tom Rolfe; Ed Preston; Robert Owen; Alex Randall; Adam Wheatley; Luke Barber; Jack Pennell; Tom Saunders.

PLEASE NOTE

The next match is AWAY on 17 February against Chiswick

The funeral of Mike Parke will take place on Friday 16 February at Garston Cemetery, Watford 12 noon.

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