First League Point on the Board
Watford take a point away from home in a game they will feel should have yielded more
Having narrowly lost to their opponents in last seasons county cup semi final, Watford knew they were in for a close game and Barnet didn’t disappoint. Truth be told, there was a slight lethargy about the squad and a definite ‘after the Lord Mayors Parade’ feeling having put so much into last weeks opener against London Welsh. In what is becoming a slightly worrying trend during the early season, the squad also showed a fair few changes to the line-up from those who took to the field the week previously.
That said, we certainly had a team capable of getting a result and were confident that if we played smart rugby and stuck to our strengths there was every chance of getting the win. Unfortunately Barnet had similar ideas, and flew out of the blocks opening the scoring within the first ten mins. This was soon followed up with a second when Watford failed to react to a quickly taken free kick, the Barnet centre waltzing up the field before passing to his supporting full back for a 7 pointer under the sticks.
Slightly shell shocked, the away side reverted to type and looked to establish their superiority up front. The set piece was typically dominant, Barnet ball at the scrum more often than not guaranteeing Watford possession. Likewise, Hammill and Clenners were imperious at the lineout – a constant banker on our own ball and regularly disrupting the opposition throw. With ball in hand Watford players were looking threatening, Josh Wilkinson Jon McClennon and Martin Lee all making clean breaks which we were unable to finish off.
Our dominance up front soon told – despite the referee frequently instructing us to use the ball rather than keep the march on due to ‘safety concerns’. Indeed, the referees call to use it actually led to Watford’s opening score with Martin Lee picking and heading blind just inside the Barnet 22, offloading to supporting 9 Mark Hill who put Yatesy in the corner for a fine wingers finish. A difficult conversion was missed, half time coming with a score of 12-5 to the home side.
Half time the message was clear. Cut out the silly mistakes and keep things simple. Also, frustration with the referee was causing us to collectively lose concentration at key points – something Barnet were keen to capitalise on by spreading the ball wide on a regular basis. Hammill quite rightly said that the next player to open their mouth would be on the receiving end of WotW.
Having made sure I actually watched the video before writing the report this week, I can honestly say it is a testament to Barnet (and indeed poor reflection of ourselves) that they managed to score another three tries in a second half which the Watford pack totally dominated. The home side scored first, once more using their pacey backline to quickly spread the ball wide for the winger to score under the posts. Disappointingly for Watford, we didn’t employ the defensive patterns we had worked on during training and were regularly leaving Gordon and Yatesy isolated on their wings.
Pleasingly, we soon struck back. A penalty for offside was punted to the corner by Dunners, Barnet illegally halting the subsequent driving maul. Hammill indicated that we wanted the scrum, Martin Lee scoring his first after yet more awesome work from the tight five. We soon found ourselves with another 5 metre scrum, this time somewhat puzzlingly being penalised whilst moving forward despite clearly being the dominant pack. Quick lineout ball from the Barnet penalty saw them break through the middle of the park for a converted score.
Another Watford penalty led to a lineout just inside the Barnet 22 which saw the men in red white and blue surge mercilessly towards the line, the home side desperately trying to halt our inexorable march by fair means or foul. Clenners had his legs taken and Roelfy took over, just being held up before Martin received the ball and stretched out to score. Beesy then kicked him in the head by way of congratulations. Three tries scored, one more for a 4 try bonus and to take us within 7 and a losing bonus point.
Barnet scuppered that by running in their 5th of the afternoon and with 5 minutes remaining Watford had gone from looking at two points from the game to none. What followed was a desperate series of attacks from the visiting side, looking to gain at least one league point we surely deserved from the game. Relentless pressure eventually forced a penalty 5 metres out and to no ones surprise Hammill indicated that we would take a scrum with the last play of the game. The tight 5 did what they do best, Martin Lee benefitting from the work of those in front with his third try of the afternoon. Conversion was missed, final score Barnet 33 vs 20 Watford.
Two games in a row Watford will feel they should have taken more from then they did. That is very much the difference between HM1 and HM2 – we will have to play consistently well for a full 80 minutes if we want to win games this season. Still, a lot of promise.
MOTM – Martin Lee. Scored a hat trick, though to be honest the award could have gone to any of the tight five who put in a superb shift.
WOTW – Ben Barnett. Turned up very late, making Chris and Josh late as well. Tut tut.