Photos (courtesy Mel McLoughlin) here
It didn’t take long for the Harpenden faithful to realise this might not be their lucky day for, after 3 minutes play on a rather cold afternoon, their talisman and number 8, Michael Goode, received a blow to the head that stopped him from continuing to take part. It was the start of a string of unexpected injuries that resulted in defeat by a Chiswick team who scored three tries (one converted) to the visitor’s reply of a solitary try and drop goal.
Despite the obvious problems, it was still a disappointing result for Harpenden on a day when their pack won the majority of the set pieces; however, it was the more creative Chiswick backs who swung the game in the home team’s favour, and they were worthy winners. In addition, although they were awarded many chances to scores from the number of penalty awards Harpenden failed to capitalise.
It was a hard-fought first half with Chiswick making use of the fairly strong wind to secure field position with a number of long kicks. They were the first to score - after a well-weighted cross-field kick, from Chiswick’s Oliver Snook, was caught by wing Joe Grindle just short of the Harpenden line; despite an attempted cover tackle from the visitor’s full back, Grindle was able to get over for a try. The conversion by Snook against the wind and from a distance was successful.
Soon after, Harpenden fly-half Will Hales dropped a goal to get Harps on the score sheet. The game continued to be fairly even until the end of the first half when Harpenden found themselves camped on the Chiswick goal line; play ended frustratingly, after a promising spell, with a knock-on with the score at half-time standing at 7 – 3 in Chiswick’s favour.
The second half started in promising fashion when early on back-row Ed Preston – soon to go on a trip to Australia for a few months - touched down, following a driving maul, for an unconverted try and giving Harpenden the lead. Chiswick replied almost immediately with a grubber kick from Snook behind his opponent’s line into the right corner, where, unfortunately for Harpenden, they failed to control the ball, giving Grindle another opportunity to go over - for his second try.
Hales then had to leave the field with a head injury forcing the visitors to completely reorganise their formation involving five changes in the backs line from scrum-half to full back, with a back row moving into the centre. With their disjointed set-up, Harpenden found it no surprise when Chiswick managed to find a way through a depleted defence on the left where they scored an unconverted try; this time Gabs Lowe was the man who put the nail into Harpenden’s coffin.
The result means that Harpenden have now suffered two defeats already this season; unfortunately, near the end of the game threequarter Will Hales left the pitch with a head injury; lock, Tom Rolfe, turned over his ankle and flanker,Tom Saunders, suffered a dead leg that forced him, too, off the pitch. At the end, injuries to Fred Gulliford (wrist) and Pete Simms (head) meant that the news was less positive than it has been for some time. As a passing comment, it was good to see former Harpenden 1st XV hooker, Alex Randall, make the final 15 minutes of play for his new club, Chiswick. And, prop Sean McLoughlin deserves a special mention for his continued staying-power which is an example to all those youngsters in his team.
F Gulliford, J Pennell, S Willam, N Childs, T Francis, W Hales, C Moyle, S McLoughlin, P Sims, S Staff, T Rolfe, O Lacey, M Goode, T Sanders, E Preston, Subs: G Rolfe, T Sanders, A McSporran