Harpenden consolidated their mid-table position in London One North with a bonus point win at struggling Woodford - and in doing so laid a bogey at a ground where they had struggled in their most recent encounters. Harps started well, pinning the home side back in their 22 for most of the first five minutes and were rewarded when flanker Jimmy Speirs took a quick tap penalty and crashed over from about eight metres out. Full-back Tom Sweeney was in good form with the boot and added the first of his five conversions in the game. Harps then made things a lot more difficult for themselves when scrum-half Fred Gulliford received a red card for retaliation.
However, with Speirs going to scrum half, the seven remaining forwards continued to take the fight to their eight opponents. Indeed, following a five-metre scrum, Speirs was able to pick up and again breach the Woodford defence. Then, following good pick and drive work from the forwards, number eight Michael Goode drove over for a third try, giving Harps a 21-point lead at half time. Whilst Woodford continued to attempt to get back into the game, they lacked the cutting edge demonstrated by their visitors. They came under pressure again from another five- metre scrum, from which Goode picked up and went over for his second try.
The scoring was completed when Woodford tried to kick out of their 22, but the ball was gathered by Harpenden’s backs, who mounted a counter-attack, outflanking the Woodford defence on the right, and giving centre Matt Deane the opportunity to slide over the line. Afterwards skipper Oli Lacey said he was very happy with the result at this difficult venue. “Scrum-half is one of the pivotal positions in any team and it was disappointing to lose ours so early in the game, but the group adapted well to take the five points,” he said. “It was particularly pleasing to have prevented Woodford from scoring, which demonstrated the team’s commitment in defence.”
One other downside was a hamstring strain suffered by stand-off Harry Hutchins, who had been instrumental in keeping Harpenden in the right areas of the pitch but is now likely to be out for a number of weeks.
This was the first game for Harpenden’s new tight-head prop Harvey Beaton, who is on loan from Saracen’s academy. He made a good contribution and should prove a useful asset going forward.
Harps face a far tougher task this Saturday when they host unbeaten league leaders North Walsham. Kick-off is 3pm.
Harpenden: Sweeney, Baggio, Deane, McClean, James; Hutchins, Gulliford; Campion, Sims, Beaton, Gue, Lacey, Jillians, Speirs, Goode. Replacements: Preston, Simcott, Staff.