Harpenden RFC A's vs Hertford RFC U13A's – Sunday 30/9/18
Home schooled in 15 minutes as Hertford snooze
The u13A’s arrived at a chilly but bright and sunny Redbourn, home of Harpenden RFC and their brand new RFU funded 4G pitch which would be centre stage for the morning’s fixture in front of the clubhouse stand supporters. A stark contrast to last week’s heavy rain on the open plains at Hoe Lane. The Hertford boys seemed optimistic after last week’s close encounter with our A/B outfit and maybe this was the start of the undoing?
Receiving the ball at kick off into bright sunshine going right to left in front of the main stand, the Hoe Laners let the ball bounce after being warned in warm up not to and advised that the ball would bounce more unfamiliarity in this surface. So straight away on the back foot, Harpenden defence was far more offensive as we struggled to exit our 22m and lost the ball. Harpenden pounced with speed and power, moved the ball wide to our left and ran in at the corner. 1 minute down, 5-0 down.
We elected to kick the restart and the kick was sent more or less central with our players bunched, allowed Harpenden this time to move the ball swiftly to our right with numbers and their strong running 2nd row now on the wing powered past a number of tackles, eventually dragged down only to pop to an option of two or three support runners. 2 minutes and two tries down, 10-0.
We then elected to receive the ball and try to keep possession. Bloomer and Rayfield made some yardage but were met with a resilient Harpenden defence and once more lost the ball at the breakdown, stripped by the defender over the ball again by the two big strong opposition forwards. Quick Harpenden two-passes play then exposed a mismatch of forwards in the outside centre channel for Harpenden to coast round a leaving Morgan on the left wing facing three attackers, it was but a formality to dot it down. 15-0 down. Another try was narrowly averted as Hertford were slow to retreat, backs turned, and the Harpenden scrum-half had taken it quickly, left us scrambling back again. It was like the boys were still in bed! Us coaches couldn’t believe we were watching the same team!
The fourth was another ‘gimme’ as we attempted to clear from the base of the scrum 15m in on our 22m left of field. The wayward kick into the centre of field allowed the opposition full back to gather at full tilt with room to accelerate and scored in the other corner. 20-0 and not even 15 minutes played.
Something had to change just to stem the tide and quick. Not a reflection of the players coming off but the boys were just shell-shocked. So, on came the subs who had been briefed about where we were going wrong. George Moody came into fray at full-back whilst Iwan Lewis moved on the left wing, and Finn Newton filled the scrum-half berth.
Before we could get going, another sucker punch blow was inflicted immediately as a scrum was awarded from a Hertford knock on in the midfield between the 22m and 10m. A training ground move by Harpenden was executed as the no.9 placed a grubber kick behind the blindside winger for the fullback to run onto as it sat up perfectly whilst the Hertford back three scrambled. 25-0, and the game was done before we even started!
So, I’m going to erase this first bit from memory and leave it to stuff of nightmares…. this became the turning point, and if only the match could’ve started from here…. So my one-eyed reporting will reflect this..…
Hertford started really attacking the play, the ball was being moved quickly from the rucks with purpose by Finn Newton that allowed the backs to run onto the ball. Dan “the machine” McKenna started making line breaks to put Luke “Crowbar” McCutcheon and Jack into space, which gave Harry Cannon and George Moody some opportunities down the right-hand side -although the big Harpenden winger snuffed them out. Forwards were recycling the ball through pack leader Tav, and Archie Nicklin in good support. Space out left then allowed big Jack to stretch his legs and cross for Hertford’s first try 25-5 (we’ll call this 5-0 to Hertford and the positive outlook score in brackets).
Defensive line speed now started to put Harpenden under real pressure, causing wayward passes for us to pounce on. We continued to have success linking a number of breaks down the left Lewis-Moody-Suddick only to be squeezed into touch. Another darting break by Finn Newton down the left released Jack for another gallop and just made the line dragging several would be tacklers making it 25-10 (0-10 to us).
A familiar story of the day as we conceded again through lost ball at the breakdown when we were attacking just inside our own half, following by some strong telling runs by Archie “Smasher” Hunt, and Peter Troll. The result, once more Harpenden countered with purpose, spread across the field and went around the right with numbers, to make it 30-10 (10-5).
The next try came from a different approach as Harpenden were made to work the ball a lot more and resorted to battering down the middle close to the ruck and on our line the pressure told, with them crashing over. Making it halftime 35-10 (10-10 if you want to ignore the first 15 minutes).
It was clear the boys were frustrated with themselves as we re-grouped. When called upon, they identified all but one of their misgivings; poor tackling, lacking pressure and losing our own ball – I added the fact that didn’t turn up and the sense of urgency was missing! They knew it.
Second half, the boys went out there with all to play for and the midfield contest was much more evenly balanced with play stuck between either side of the halfway mark. We continued to pressure the Harpenden line, beginning to peg them back.
The next score came against the run of play and summed up the day. A well-placed kick by the Harpenden fly-half in space behind the pressing defence, was allowed to bounce, and cruelly so, sharply left into his grateful arms as Finn at full-back was sent the wrong way. A sharp about-turn, and a foot race to the line resulted. Finn nearly made amends making the tackle with Iwan and George covering back too with appeals for a dropped ball over the line only for the referee to award the try. That put it 40-10 (15-10) and embarrassingly the referee asked if the game should stop as it was now a 6-try deficit – my reply was “you what? No chance we’re playing to win this second half.”
Harpenden rekindled their powering runs down our left-hand side which left Harry Cannon down and out. A clash of knees meant he took no further part and a trip to a ‘walk-in’ clinic and wish him well, as Harpenden offloads allowed the big guy into the corner even with the close attentions of Smasher. 45-10 (20-10).
We then suffered a first yellow of the season to add to the pressure, as Finn Newton had a time-out in the sin-bin after making sure the opposition centre stayed down with a pacific islander hit; late, no arms and high. We weathered the storm and the boys were on the offensive camped around the opposition 22m, being a player down seemed to galvanise efforts. Several breaks were telling solo efforts, namely Rayfield bullocking down the middle but the secondary support cost us, allowing Harpenden to clear, only for Hertford to attack once more through George Moody. Back to a full complement, amends were made as Finn Newton crossed the line following lots of forward pressure. 45-15 (20-15) and the second-half game was on.
The final 5 mins were all Hertford and we finished with the last word, linking some crash lines from Peter, Tav and Rayfield giving quicker ball to the backs. Jack crossed over for his hattrick with support players outside to spare and a real positive way to finish the day.
Final score at the whistle was 45-20. If you take the positive turning point, then 20-20.
Today was tough and a lesson on many fronts. You can’t afford to start slowly, miss tackles and cough the ball up. As soon as the ref blows that first whistle game-head needs to be on it and focussed, compete across the park. Barr that first 15-mins the game was even at 20-20, but we had already been schooled, and that was against an opposition we know. There will be tougher teams out there! HML pool A is going to demand A-grade rugby, the bar is high, and all the players need to be ready, step up to the plate, as too many were missing in action. Plenty of homework but did gain the respect in the second half.
Harpenden 45 v 20 Hertford
(Tries: Jack Suddick 3; Finn Newton)
Thanks to me reporting, it may not be wholly accurate, and probably missed bits whilst I scratched my head with what hair I don’t have.
……I then woke up from a nightmare only to realise it was Monday morning! Urrgh