Most enjoyable lunch followed by excellent game of rugby that saw the home side despite being outscored by four tries to two producing another outstanding performance against a very good Stevenage side to secure their fourth league victory in a row by 26 points to 22. This was a highly competitive, super game of rugby, the result in doubt until the final whistle and with the win Harrow stretched their unbeaten streak to four. This is the first time we have achieved this in over four years when between the 20th December 2014 and 31st January 2015 Harrow beat OMTs at home, Old Haberdashers away, Hemel Hempstead away and HAC at home. This was in our Championship winning season in London 2NW that saw us promoted to London 1 North for the first time in our history and it was right at the end of a run that had seen us win nine on the trot. Good days indeed but for those who got to watch the game on Saturday it was the quality of the game and the measure of the home team’s performance that will live long in the memory.
First, as always to the lunch. After holding a minute’s silence in memory of former club secretary Steve Riley who died earlier this week 60 people sat down to a meal of sausages with mustard mash potatoes and vegetables and onion gravy followed by bread and butter pudding. For those still peckish there was cheese and biscuits followed by tea and coffee.
Thanks to Linda for the excellent spread, to Lesley, Annette, Rod and Jon for setting up for the lunch. To John Dietmann and Clive Lander for sponsoring two barrels of Sidepocket. To all those who contributed to the raffle. Some great prizes. I know I missed some of those that contributed but those I know, John Batten, both Paul and Dave Darlington, Debbie and Matt Henry, Len Cole and John and Jean Thomas. To those that I missed I can only apologise. Very enjoyable meal spent with good people. Everything that is good about our club on display both on and off the field on Saturday. It was worth the price of the meal alone to see Mike Gibson, ex-Ireland International having to accept the tenth and final raffle prize….an England tee-shirt with a bottle of “Twickenham” Ale. Accepted with good grace I could see that he was already thinking of whom was going to be the lucky recipient of these treasured items which were clearly never going to cross the threshold of his home.
Thank you to everyone who has supported our lunches across the season. I hope you have enjoyed the food and the experiences as much as I have.
At the players social after the match Alex Campbell asked me to make sure that I mentioned him in the match report…………..which I have done………and make sure that I don’t mention Mark Gibson …..which I won’t. There Alex. As promised
On a quite lovely March afternoon bathed in sunlight and with a very slight breeze Harrow kicked off playing towards the pond pitch and were immediately on the attack completely knocking Stevenage off their game and within 16 minutes were 13-0 up. A penalty at 5 mins for offside in midfield on the Stevenage 10 metre line to the right of the posts. Superb kick by Argent 3-0. At 10 mins Harrow secured another penalty right in front of the Stevenage posts for not releasing in the tackle. Easy three points 6-0. A superb kick from the player who cannot be named bounced into touch ten metres out from Stevenage’s line. Harrow then secured the Stevenage lineout ball and there was Leaman on a great peel straight at the heart of their defence. He broke through a double tackle and although hauled down just short of the line he had too much desire and strength to be stopped and he was over just to the right of the posts for an excellent individual try. Straight forward conversion by Argent 13-0. Stevenage who proved themselves a really good side and the only team to beat London Welsh this season then began to find their feet. At 19 mins on pretty much their first real attack of the game they moved the ball right across the Harrow posts. Their quality outside centre who scored three tries when we played away, lovely balance and quick, quick feet, held the young full back and then was away to score 15 metres in from the right-hand touch line for a high-quality individual try. Conversion missed 13-5. We now had a top quality and competitive game as both sides looked for the next score. However, at 38 mins with Harrow on the defence on their own 22 metre line Tony Brennan ruptured his Achilles tendon which I understand necessitated surgery that evening. Going forward this is now a major headache for the team. With Shane Togher moving North during the close season to lose Tony for a significant period of time with only four front row forwards available to the club could derail next season even before it arrives. Still we wish him our absolute best and a full recovery. A top man. His power both in the tight and loose will be much missed. His injury changed the balance of the team and the contest with Harrow’s dominance at the scrum curtailed with his loss. With no forwards on the bench, Togher moved from the back row to his usual position in the front row. Chris West who had proved such a power of strength defensively in the midfield moved to the back row. The player who cannot be named moved from 10 to 12 with Campbell coming on at 10. At 39 mins Stevenage took advantage of the changes. A solid scrum on the Harrow 5 was moved right. An excellent tackle on the Stevenage right wing seemed to have stopped the danger but the managed to get the ball to the other centre who looped around and went over at the corner for a fine try. Difficult conversion missed 13-10 which the score into the break.
The second half continued in the same vain. Highly competitive and of real quality. At 53 mins Harrow secured a penalty on the Stevenage 10 metre line close to the left-hand touchline. The skipper called up the young fullback for looked like a very difficult kick. Not the case and Argent took Harrow to a 16-10 lead. Two minutes later with Stevenage moving the ball left to right just inside their own half the player who cannot be named put in a huge tackle on his opposite number in midfield. The ball was spilled and Vincent was first to react picking up the ball at pace. Forced wide against the left-hand touchline it looked like he was tackled but showing both strength and speed he got away from the tackler and the rest of the defence to go in under real pressure right at the left-hand corner for a tremendous individual score. This was followed by another outstanding conversion by Argent 23-10. But whatever harrow did they just couldn’t shake Stevenage off. After a period of concerted pressure their quality centre again showing quick feet had created enough space for himself to weave through the Harrow defence for another quality individual score. Easy conversion 23-17. Stevenage now were in the ascendancy and Harrow were beginning to hold on and yet once again it was the visitor’s ill-discipline that was to cost them dear. At 71 mins a penalty in midfield was marched back 10 metres for back chat. A difficult kick was turned into a straight forward opportunity for a kicker in the grove as much as Argent was 26-17. That was it or so it seemed. Stevenage hadn’t finished at 73 mins they were over again to the left of the posts on the 15-metre line to secure their try bonus point. The conversion hit the upright and came back. Big miss. The points would have taken them within 2 points with 7 mins to play. The miss meant that they had to score a try to win the game and Harrow who battled all game weren’t prepared to let that happen. They got through to the final whistle with a couple of scares to record an outstanding win against some very good opposition. Harrow in this unbeaten run have now beaten two of the four top sides and with this victory have jumped from seventh to fifth in the league
At the after-match festivities Tom Beech was adjudged the man of the match for an outstanding defensive display but for me the game was won on the back of the 16 points by Billy Argent. The Stevenage no 13 was the class player on show on Saturday but the Harrow number 15 was the game’s most important player and is my man of the match
Next Saturday Harrow travel to Finchley for our last game of the season where the team will look to extend their unbeaten run to five against the league’s second bottom side. The KO will be at 3pm
Meanwhile at Grove Field we are hosting three Middlesex Merit Table Playoff Finals. The matches will kick off at 1pm, 2pm and 2.45pm. It will be a very busy afternoon and I could do with a little more help so if you can help out even for an hour please let me know
As I run the County Merit Tables I will be at Harrow so I will be looking for someone to do the match report. Again, please let me know if you can help out