Harpenden had to dig deep to beat a resilient Hampstead side to claim their fifth win of the season, a result that keeps them in fourth place in London Two North West. Although the scoreline might suggest a comfortable victory, this was no stroll in the park as the visitors made Harps fight every inch of the way and it was only after they had scored a fifth try in the closing minutes that the victory was secured.
The north Londoners looked by far the more lively of the two sides in the opening exchanges and it was no surprise when they took the lead on six minutes with a try from right wing David Brandon. Harps slowly fought their way back into the game and a superb rolling maul that moved Hampstead back a full 25 metres ended with hooker Pete Sims touching down on 15 minutes. Stand-off Tom Sweeney duly converted.
The try sparked Harps into further action and shortly afterwards scrum-half Fred Gulliford darted over for a second try following a scrum on the Hampstead five-metre line, with Sweeney adding the extra points. And just before the break lock Al Whittaker crashed over for a third to give Harps a 19-7 lead. Harps increased their lead again one minute into the second half when centre Nick Childs raced onto his pinpoint kick ahead to touch down in the left-hand corner and secure the bonus point.
However, they then failed to build on the momentum as Hampstead came back strongly. The visitors were duly rewarded with a try on 65 minutes from Alex Brooks, which also resulted in Harps right wing Trish Francis being sinbinned for an offence not clear to those in the stand. Feeling that if they could get a third try they might well get a fourth, Hampstead ramped up the pressure again, and Harps were forced to resort to some desperate defending. But three minutes from time Harps number eight Tom Rolfe put the result beyond any doubt with a splendid fifth try.
Harps skipper Oli Lacey said: “This was a really mature performance because Hampstead turned up in a way that we did not expect. We had to reset our game, slow things down and really fight to win control. I’m particularly pleased as we were forced to make a number of changes to the squad during the week and bring in four players for their debuts.”
This Saturday Harps travel to Norwich of London Two North East for the second round of the London and South East Intermediate Cup.
Harpenden: Sach, Saunders, Strydom, Childs, Francis; Sweeney, Gulliford; McLoughlin, Sims, Staff, Tominey, Whittaker, Lacey, Walmsley, Rolfe. Replacements: Campion, Murphy, Phillips.