This was a tight game that could have gone either way. After Harpenden had taken the lead through a Tom Sweeney penalty within 5 minutes of the start Belsize Park were careful not to play the offside trap again. Soon after, with Harpenden’s Will Sach lying injured on the ground, Belsize quickly moved the ball to their left wing Mark Liebling who scored the first of his side’s four tries – none of which Belsize was able to convert.
Things started to move in Harpenden’s direction when their pack began to dominate their opposition until Sam Staff was given a yellow card for accidentally making contact with his elbow whilst fending off his opposite number. George Rolfe replaced him with Michael Goode leaving the field to even up the numbers, but even so Harpenden continued their scrummaging superiority. Belsize then extended their lead with a try from a rolling maul following a lineout close to the Harpenden line. Having conceded that second try, Harpenden were unfortunate to lose Sweeney after a clash of heads; both the Belsize player involved and Sweeney were obliged to leave the pitch having suffered lacerations to the face.
Pressure near the Belsize line nearly resulted in a Harpenden score, as the visitors fought back following two scrums on the Belsize five- metre line. In the first, the pack, having gained momentum, enabled back-row Adam Wheatley to squeeze through the Belsize defence only to be adjudged held up. The second scrum seemed to be heading for a pushover try; however, the referee decided to award a penalty try for a Belsize infringement, levelling the scores at 10-10. It was then the backs turn to break from just outside their own 22-metre line that, with some quick handling in a move involving five or so players, ended with a try for Nick Childs converted by Will Hales, who had replaced Sweeney.
Towards the end of the half, unfortunately for Harpenden they lost their concentration and allowed Belsize to break down the left wing and score a try (their third) in the corner, leaving the half-time score at 15-17.
Much of the second half was spent in Belsize’s 22-metre area as Harpenden took advantage of the elements – a strong wind helped them gain good field position from which the resulting scrums and lineouts were mostly won – but Belsize defended resolutely. Injuries to Fred Gulliford, Oli Lacey, Sean McLoughlin and Goode caused them to leave the action; only Gulliford - with his wrist strapped - and Lacey (who had suffered a painful rib injury) returned.
Unfortunately, Harps could not exercise consistent control for long enough to fashion any further scores and it was Belsize who added a final try to their tally to give them the win and 5 points, while Harps’ valiant efforts only gained them the solitary losing-point bonus. The result leaves Harpenden fourth in the league table just behind newly-promoted Welwyn.
Harpenden’s next league match is at home on 2nd December against Grasshoppers RFC - kick-off 3:00pm.
Squad: W Sach A Wilkinson T Strydom N Childs J Onyuma T Sweeney F Gulliford S MCloughlin J Murphy S Staff T Rolfe O Lacey (Capt) M Goode T Sanders A Wheatley W Hales P Sims G Rolfe