Harpenden’s promising start to their London Two North West campaign came to a juddering halt when they slipped to defeat against newly promoted local rivals Welwyn. While they generally scrummaged and mauled well and there was no lack of effort, the end product was often marred by basic errors which resulted in the concession of a stream of penalties and turnovers.
Skipper Oli Lacey was his usual honest self in his post-match assessment: “This was hugely disappointing. We made too many mistakes and there was a lack of discipline in key areas. Despite all this, I still thought we might win but we let it go in the end.” Harps were under pressure from the kick-off but after weathering the storm they failed to take advantage when stand-off Will Hales missed a penalty conversion attempt on nine minutes. On 15 minutes Welwyn took the lead through a Conor Boland try which came shortly after Harps lock Ed Preston had been yellow carded for trying to illegally impede a quickly taken tap penalty.
Harps hit back quickly with a fine try under the posts from outside centre Billy Sach (converted by Hales) following a strong run from hooker Jack Murphy. But poor defence then allowed Welwyn flanker Josh Milton to touch down under the posts. Shortly before half-time Harps right wing Jack Pennell took the score to 12-12 when he went over for a try in the corner after the ball was quickly worked wide from a scrum in front of the posts.
Harps went into the lead again on 55 minutes when flanker George Attfield burst clear for a try under the posts (converted by Hales) but his good work was undone five minutes later when Boland scored his second try of game. With the scores now at 19-19 Welwyn took the lead on 74 minutes with a Dave Fennell penalty conversion. Harps desperately went in search of another score but, as had too often happened earlier in the game, they were let down by mistakes. Hales did have the opportunity to level the scores shortly before the final whistle but his penalty kick sailed wide of the posts.
Harpenden: Wilkinson, Pennell, Sach, Childs, Gulliford; Hales, Moyle; McLoughlin, Murphy, G Rolfe, Preston, Lacey, Wheatley, Attfield, Goode. Replacements: Haddock, T Rolfe, Tominey.
Harpenden’s new £1.2 million all-weather pitch funded by the Rugby Football Union was officially opened before the start of the Welwyn match. The inauguration was performed by David Roberts, RFU Council representative for Hertfordshire, who presented a commemorative vase to Harpenden president Peter Danby. In expressing his immense pride in the facility, Peter paid a warm tribute to Darren Francey (club chairman), Peter Woodthorpe (secretary) and Philip Langford for their huge efforts in bringing the project to fruition.