Step up in intensity secures Harrow the points
By Andrew Smart
Harrow outscore promotion chasing O Streets by three tries to one
I challenged the 1stxv after their fine performance away at Cheshunt to show that we could be more than just competitive against the teams at the top of the table and on Saturday to be fair to the players they proved that they could, avenging a 27-0 loss in Hackney Marshes with an outstanding 17-10 win in an enthralling and competitive game against a good O Streetonians side who came expecting to win as they pursued that promotion place behind London Welsh.
Before the kick off it looked the match was going to be dominated by the howling gale that was blowing down the pitch towards Warren Lane and whilst it was most certainly a factor it didn’t stop a fine game of rugby breaking out. It was hugely competitive, a real step up in intensity from the performance at Cheshunt and against a much better team in O Streetonians who hadn’t travelled to Grove Field to lose. Harrow went toe to toe with the visitors from the off and showing real spirit and determination in the first half to defend their line and then patience and some real quality in the second to run out worthy winners outscoring their more vaunted visitors by three tries to one.
In the first half Harrow played towards the pond pitch and into what I can only describe was a gale force wind and were immediately on the defence as the visitors pushed Harrow back using the wind to good advantage. At 7 mins on the Harrow 22 Mark Gibson put on a high kick behind the O Streets defence and watched in horror as the ball blew back over his head. O Sts recovered the ball and after a series of drives close to the line finally got over to the right of the Harrow posts. Easy conversion 0-7 but Gibson who just gets on with his game and never lets his head drop had learnt his lesson and for the rest of the half when he had to kick he kept it low or along the ground with good effect. You would have thought that an early score on the board and with the elements so much in their favour that more scores would follow but the home team produced an outstanding defensive display stopping O Sts time and time again with the ferocity of their tackling, giving them no space or time to get themselves into good positions on the field. Harrow who suffered nothing in terms of possession drove up time and time again moving the ball quickly and effectively to the next forward runner just before or at contact to force, moving the point of attack out one and forcing O Sts into tackle after tackle. The front row of Brennan, Taffs and Togher were especially prominent in both defence and making the hard yards although to fair it was right across the whole side. Good coaching and excellent application by the players and to be honest I can barely remember O Sts creating any more pressure on the Harrow line or indeed their 22 for the rest of the half. Indeed at 38 mins O Sts got a penalty on the Harrow 10 metre line and having got so little change out of the home side’s defence opted for goal. It was a long kick but aided by the strong wind it sailed over the Harrow posts. 0-10. To be honest I would have taken that before KO but Harrow had other ideas. They came straight back and a quite lovely move up the right hand touchline saw Mark Gibson with a pass set Burnett free on the right wing and showing his customary power and pace even 30 metres out there was nothing that the visitors could do to stop him and he went over about 15 metres in from the touchline. Difficult conversion missed but 5-10 down into the break capped a tremendous first half effort.
Surely it was just a matter of time before playing now with the elements would see Harrow ahead but O Sts had other ideas raising their game significantly as they looked to defend their lead. They played some intelligent rugby forcing Harrow back into their own half for long periods and whilst they never looked like scoring again, they continued to frustrate the home team. Harrow to their credit continued to prod away, remaining patient as they looking for that all important next score. At about 70 mins Harrow finally got the score they needed. Just outside the visitors 22 a lovely inside pass from Gibson right on the gain line saw Burnett in from the right wing at pace and he had too much strength to be stopped going in to the right of the posts. Gibson kicked the all-important conversion and Harrow were finally ahead 12-10. Six minutes later Chris West playing again at centre made a good break on the visitors 22. Although he was brought down after 10 metres, he had committed a host of defenders. Quick ball was moved left and Tom Hill unavailable all season because he was training for the marathon took a short pass. Displaying great strength he got through the first line of defence and then got the pass out to Vincent who despite the cover had the pace and power to get over to the left of the posts for the try. Conversion missed 17-10. O Sts came back again but Harrow had not worked that hard to give it away now and saw out time to deservedly take the points. Good game of rugby and Harrow finally showed what they are capable of. On the touchline and in bar later the Harrow spectators were fully appreciative of the player’s efforts in a superb team performance
The coach, skipper and his players had much to be proud of
Next week is a free weekend and then we make the long journey to Royston where it would be nice to pick up our third away win of the season and for the first time in perhaps four season a third win in a row.