COACH HAILS LION-HEARTED DEFENSIVE EFFORT AS IGNATIANS KEEP VISITORS AT BAY
Enfield Ignatians: 14 - Harpenden: 7
(London 2 North West)
It had the potential to be a jittery month for Enfield Ignatians. Instead, January ended on a jubilant note after the blue and golds, unfazed by tall reputations, made it two wins out of three by turning the formbook on its head after upstaging third-placed Harpenden 14-7 in London Two North-West.
It was quite a turnaround as Ignatians had been humbled 71-0 by the same opponents earlier in the season. However, the blue and golds, having begun the month with a game win against Hemel Hempstead, before pushing the league leaders HAC hard, have come a long way since then.
Harpenden, with the wind and the slope in their favour, made the first breakthrough. Although they were given a helping hand by Ignatians as a couple of errors led to the visitors winning a five-metre scrum from which number eight Ed Preston forced his way over.
Fly-half Olly Mann added the extras but it was the only time in the afternoon that Ignatians' defence was breached. Spurning three kickable shots at goal, Harpenden unsuccessfully tried to go down the running route only to come up against a watertight defence in no mood to yield.
Ignatians' tight game which entailed hard carries by their charged up forwards, and ever dependable centre Keir Bonnar, underpinned a successful strategy of containment and, with the elements in their favour in the second period, the blue and golds successfully rebounded from a 7-0 half-time deficit.
The equalising score came approaching the hour mark after Ignatians pushed-up and won a lineout close to the Harps' 22. The pin-point dart of hooker, Ben Mills, successfully located the jumper, before the ensuing maul took play to within 10-metres of the line.
Forwards and backs took it in turns to siege the whitewash However, something eventually had to give, and eagle-eyed fly-half, Jake Bates, took his chance well when it came by spotting a gap and dummying his way over.
A stung Harpenden reverted to attacking mode but the mid-field axis of Bonnar and Ethan Renny held firm; and when Dave Gear made a crucial steal in the tackle area, the ensuing kick-chase saw Enfield force a lineout 25-metres from the line. Opting for a route one assault, Ignatians' mixture of patience, power and outright attrition was eventually rewarded on 64 minutes when Jake Bates completed his brace from close quarters. The Man of the Match also deepened Harpenden's pain by converting his own try.
Harpenden again came calling by mounting repeated attacks in the last 15-minutes. However, just as they had done against the league leaders, HAC, two weeks' earlier, Ignatians continued to defend like Dervishes before eventually forcing their opponents to spill the ball.
Ignatians took the cue by sticking the ball up their jumper with a series of pick and gos and, when Jordan Wilson kicked the ball dead in the final play, it set the seal on the sweetest of victories.
Again, one must salute the efforts of the whole 18-man squad. Charlie Hoy replaced Jamie Newport, who picked up a shoulder injury, at half-time. Harry Massini (on for Cairo Sango) and Luke Stack, who replaced hard-working prop William Bruce, also played their part.
Coach Ali Cook said: "We played really well. It was a great turnaround from the last time the two sides met earlier in the season. We played with a lot of heart and our defence was monumental."
Ignatians' fifth win of the campaign keeps them in ninth spot, ahead of the important visit of Hammersmith & Fulham next Saturday (Feb 3rd), who are a place behind in the table.