Harpenden were left to rue failing to take their chances when on top after going down 11-19 to Colchester. Despite conceding an early try, they fought back well to take the lead and with 15 minutes to go it appeared as though they might well be on course for a famous victory against last season’s league runners-up. But they were unable to convert possession and territory into further points and went down to two late tries by the visitors.
Skipper Oli Lacey said: “We are disappointed because we were in control of the game and should have gone on to win. However, they took their chances – and we did not.” Harps got off to the worst possible start when their defence opened up in the first minutes to enable Colchester prop Callum Jeffries to round off an attack by scoring a try under the posts, which was converted by James Crozier However, Harps fought back extremely well and on 14 minutes left wing Will Hague-Blundy rounded off a sweeping move by touching down in the corner.
On 23 minutes they went ahead when temporary replacement Tom Stagg slotted over a penalty and with the final kick game of the first half stand-off Matt Deane converted another penalty to give them a 11-7 lead. The second half was another close, hard-fought battle but despite Harps’ forward winning plenty of the ball to enable to backs to set up a number of attacks, they could find no way through the Colchester defence.
On 65 minutes a defensive lapse allowed Colchester scrum-half Brett Cutbush to score a try under the posts (converted by Crozier) and with five minutes to go flanker Danny Whiteman added a third try in the right corner. Harps fought desperately to salvage a losing bonus point but Colchester ensured they had nothing to show for their efforts by finishing the strongest.
Harps travel to Sudbury on Saturday before hosting Shelford on 5 October.
Harpenden: McLean, Baggio, Speirs, Tane, Hague-Blundy, Deane, Gulliford; McLoughlin, Sims, Campion, Rolfe, Lacey, Gue, Jillians, Preston. Replacements: McSporran, Pennell, Stagg.