Harpenden’s impressive title charge came to a juddering halt when they went down to a late try from fellow promotion challengers Chiswick in a tense, hard-fought game at Redbourn Lane. For the first time this season Harps failed to score a try while the Londoners ran in three tries so they can have little complaint about the result. Despite the defeat they remain in second place in London Two North West but Chiswick, who have a game in hand, now lie only four points behind.
Skipper Oli Lacey said: “We’re bitterly disappointed as we thought we had done enough to win but we turned off at key moments. We must now draw a line under the result and move on to the next game.” Harps began well enough and opened the scoring with a Tom Sweeney penalty on three minutes, but they were then dealt hammer blows when they lost giant tight-head prop Sam Staff and powerful lock Al Whittaker to injury, although a heavily patched up Whittaker was able to return to the fray in the second half. Fortunately for Harps ill-discipline by the west Londoners allowed Sweeney to convert two more penalties on 19 and 32 minutes.
Chiswick continued to serve it up and were eventually rewarded when right wing Adam Churton went over for a try on 35 minutes. Harps’ injury curse then continued when flanker Tom Sanders was forced off just before the break. Harps though kept the scoreboard ticking over early in the second half with two more penalties from Sweeney on 53 and 56 minutes. With 10 minutes to go it looked as though Harps were on course to grind out a narrow win but then Chiswick flanker Ryno Lopez went over for a try under the posts which was converted by Oliver Snooks to take the score to 15-10.
Sensing victory, Chiswick then threw everything at Harps and with two minutes to go Snooks scored a crucial third try, which was converted by George Bibby, to give them a narrow but deserved victory.
Harps are next in action at Hampstead on 2 March.
Harpenden: Hales, Pennell, Strydom, Sweeney, Sach; Mann, Gulliford; McLoughlin, Murphy, Staff, Whittaker, Lacey, Preston, Sanders, Gue. Replacements: Campion, Childs, T Rolfe.