Match Report: Hertford v Guernsey
When you play the top of the table team at home you know there is absolutely no room for error otherwise your opponents will sniff blood and make you pay.
That’s exactly what a powerful Guernsey outfit did at Hoe Lane, showing no mercy to run in six tries after a strong finish to the first half – and an even more impressive start to the second.
Hertford did at least pick up a bonus point, which they fully deserved, and yet again battled courageously to the final whistle, and were rewarded with one of the tries of the season, a length of the field score finished off by Mike Allan.
Hertford RFC head coach Kanwaijit Basra said: “We’ve had better days. It’s highly frustrating, we feel like we should be competing with sides like that. The boys are very disappointed as are the coaches. They kept the ball well and went through the phases and that killed us.
“I said to the lads after the game: ‘Go and find your opposite number in the bar and buy them a pint because collectively they played very well.’ The ref managed the game very well. At times we didn’t get enough possession and when we did get the ball we didn’t keep it.”
There were times when Hertford more than matched the visitors, indeed in a thrilling first 30 minutes they led 21-17, with outside centre Stuart Smart playing a blinder. However, he then picked up a rib injury and was forced off, after which the momentum swung towards Guernsey.
Guernsey were first on the scoreboard, fly half Owen Thomas slotting over a penalty in the second minute following a high tackle.
Hertford’s response was swift. After Ben Lloyd was taken out by an opponent and received a bloody nose, the referee played advantage and scrum half Ben Creasey collected the loose ball in broken play to make a dash for the posts.
An easy conversion for Sean Taylor gave the hosts a 7-3 lead.
Inside centre Richard Streets extended the advantage in the 11th minute with a scintillating burst through the middle to cross the whitewash after a neat pass from Lloyd off the back of a scrum in midfield. Taylor added the extras to make it 14-3.
Guernsey were then back in Hertford’s 22 after going through the phases, spreading and holding the ball well. This resulted in and overlap out wide and Luke Jones scored in the corner. Thomas converted to cut the deficit to 14-10.
Play flowed from end to end with bone crunching tackles from both sides.
In the 22nd minute James Kinsley combined well with Creasey and Lloyd to supply Allan, who found his route to the line blocked.
Smart broke free of the strong Guernsey front row and showed them a clean pair of heels for a tremendous score in the right corner. Taylor kicked a tricky touchline conversion and Hertford led 21-10.
More good pressure from Hertford followed, but Guernsey went back on the attack just before the half hour mark. Smart put in a crunching tackle and was forced off, and from a scrum the visitors worked the ball towards the Hertford line, with Ned Brown going over despite a desperate covering tackle from Creasey. With the extras added, the gap was down to 21-17.
Guernsey now began to turn the screw and scored their third try in the 34th minute.
With Hertford making good ground, Jack Elston was unable to collect a wild pass from Lloyd and knocked on.The speedy Dale Martin collected and the ball was back in Hertford’s half. Guernsey won another lineout and Anthony Armstrong piled through and with numbers out wide Luke Jones went over in the corner unopposed. Thomas missed the conversion, but Guernsey were back ahead, 22-21.
The top of the table side now showed their class with a series of strong phase, using the pick and go to great effect, piling the pressure on Hertford’s defence. With the half-time whistle beckoning, a missed tackle in the middle by prop Geoff Hughes allowed Guernsey to touch down under the posts for their bonus point try. The extras were added, Hertford had suddenly lost the initiative and trailed 29-21 at the break.
They made the worst possible start to the second half as another lost lineout saw Hertford concede a penalty and a wonderful kick to touch put the ball close to the five metre line. Guernsey used the push and shove from the scrum to touch down in the corner. Thomas missed the conversion, but the visitors led 34-21.
Yet more Guernsey pressure saw them go over for the sixth try, their power at the rolling maul and accuracy with ball in hand seeing them turn the screw. A re-taken conversion from Thomas saw Guernsey well clear at 41-21 with just under an hour gone.
Hertford aren’t a team to throw in the towel or let their heads drop and enjoyed a strong finish to the game. James Kinsley racked up their fully deserved bonus point score on 65 minutes, with Taylor converting. Thomas then kicked a superb penalty for Guernsey to make it 44-28, but Hertford continued to enjoy plenty of the ball, and when visiting prop Layton Baptiste was sin-binned for cynically holding on to the ball the hosts were on top to the end.
A length of the field try finished off by Allan at the death, after Lloyd ran the ball out from his own goal area to Streets, did at least give the Hertford fans something to cheer.