Comfortable win boosts villagers' promotion hopes
Another try for pace man James Watt as Datchworth out-smart Harrow
Following a gritty performance away to Tabard the greens were back on home soil to welcome a competitive Harrow outfit.
Starting strongly, a recurring theme this campaign for the village side, Datchworth looked to attack around the fringes with the usual up-the-jumper approach from Sam McBroom, and some boisterous attempts from Liam Walker, Hugo Dawson and Stuart Young. Full back Tom Bennett took a blow to the head in the opening exchanges but mummy's little soldier carried on like a trooper, realising it didn't actually hurt.
With a penalty awarded within striking distance, Datchworth opted for a scrum and a little pick and pop and the back saw scrum half Ed Cockburn dart over for the score on the blindside. Tom Wood made good the extras for a 7-0 lead inside the first ten minutes.
Datchworth continued to attack, but Harrow's defence held firm - the home side ruing missed chances with dropped ball costing possession.
After surviving a twenty-minute onslaught, Harrow came back strongly and exerted pressure on the greens, who were trying to play with a bit too much gusto - the backs trying to show their flair far too often and struggling to retain possession. The visitors made the most of their increased time on the ball, and made progress down field - a huge hit on the fringe from Tom Blackwell merely delaying the inevitable. Soon camped on the home side's 5m, simple hands down the line saw them draw closer with their first try, just before the half hour mark; 7-5.
From the restart Datchworth were found lacking and Harrow went close once more - an almost guaranteed score from a 3 on 1 overlap being foiled by winger Nick Moore; bundling his opposite number into touch in the act of scoring the would-be try.
As Datchworth made their first change - Gudgin on for Walker in the front row - Harrow still came away with the lead with a penalty giving them an 8-7 advantage.
Having lost the lead, Datchworth began to play a more expansive game - less use of the runners around the fringes with Wood and Brunton working well at 10 and 12; using Alex Nolan as a battering ram and Bennett ever so often gracing the back line with his presence too to find gaps. The second Datchworth try soon came; a simple hands down the line with Bennett joining late and arching round towards the right touchline. With Nick Moore outside him the latter scored in the corner. Wood was unable to convert, but the home side had regained the lead, 12-8. Bennett left the field soon after - a delayed reaction to the earlier knock perhaps. Nick Moore shifted to full back and flanker Jake Ebhodaghe, returning from injury, slotted in on the wing - a sensible use of his extra pace.
There was time for one final Harrow attack - Datchworth again giving away a silly penalty and letting Harrow into their 22 for a lineout. The ball was overthrown however, and quick reactions from Brunton forced a knock on - signalling half time.
Two further changes for the villagers during the break saw Mike Skinner returning to action in place of Tom Blackwell, and Nick Holland making way for Liam Walker, trying his arm in the second row.
Skinner made his mark straight away, lumbering ahead of the pack to put the receiver under pressure and force a clearance. Quick ball from the lineout went wide right, before Wood switched the play back to the left with a long ball to Skinner who had a rumble down the left touchline - bumping two men before setting up the next phase. Walker went close round the fringe but was penalised for holding on; and the green army marched back 10m as, to the dismay of his team-mates, he protested his innocence.
Harrow made good use of the possession but Datchworth's resolve in defence made it hard to find any gaps. The visitors looked to find some extra flair and move the ball wide, quickly, but alas James Watt's pace thwarted their efforts as he intercepted and ran in from just outside his own 22. Wood couldn't add the conversion but the villagers had increased the gap; 17-8.
Datchworth slipped up minutes later, with a loose ball bobbling its way into goal following a good chip from Gibson and the home side were slower to react - the former collecting and passing back inside for an easy score; 17-13.
Tom Wood had a chance to get Datchworth back to a score in front but his penalty effort sailed narrowly wide of the uprights; Harrow sent it back but straight to Nolan who collected for a counter attack.
Datchworth settled into more of a groove for the next ten minutes, Gudgin's influence taking the pace off the game as they maintained possession. With two scrums in a row going over the line only to be brought down by Harrow the referee gave Datchworth a penalty try and with it a bonus point. At 24-13 it looked to be enough to clinch the match but Harrow heads didn't drop as they searched for the losing bonus point. A little unlucky, perhaps, in the closing stages as they attempted to run the ball from their 22 - a wayward pass fell behind the receiver allowing Tom Wood to pounce and claim Datchworth's 5th try. The restart fell straight into Brunton's hands, who sent it to touch for full time.
Despite losing possession for sustained periods of time, all in all another comfortable win after 80 minutes against a good Harrow side who asked a lot of questions of the improving village outfit.
Results elsewhere mean Datchworth are now sitting nicely in the runners up position and have their tails well and truly up. A crunch game approaches on the 9th of February, Old Streetonians will want to reclaim 2nd spot but the greens will have one eye on Stevenage Town who are still hot on their heels.