Winning streak ends at Finchley
By Andrew Smart
Harrow end up 7th
Match Report by Howie Gosling
Finchley 25-20 Harrow (Tries Eoin, Tom B, Stuart. Con Billy Pen Billy)
Two lacklustre starts at the beginning of each half left Harrow with too much to do. Harrow had the wind advantage in the first half , but the game got off to a slow start with a poor Finchley kick off followed by scrum, after scrum, after scrum, after scrum as both teams looked like they had one eye on the beach and no eyes on the ball. After 5 mins poor tackling led to Finchley breaking through the middle and from the ensuing ruck Harrow were deemed to be off side. Penalty kick in front of the posts seemed straight forward enough but luckily it was missed and Harrow had a let off.
It wasn’t until the 12 minute that Harrow made it into the Finchley half but that possession came to nothing. On 15 mins Harrow were penalised at the breakdown with the players giving the ref backchat they were marched back 10m he then seemed to march them back another 10m claiming he had been given back chat by the our honourable linesman! Need to check the rule book on that decision?! (Having delved slightly deeper into this incident during the post, post-match review at The Swan with their excellent array of drinks and free tapas* I am led to believe that the objective opinion from the side line had either come from a certain former Irish international centre or a black dog…… possibly a Labrador, either way I’d again have to check my rugby rule book on that decision).
(*shameless plugs for pints)
Finchley kicked into the Harrow 22 and from the lineout a short ball from their out-half put the back row through, he then fed wide and the winger was in for a try 5-0. This seemed to wake Harrow up and from a penalty in mid-field Harrow went for the line. Good lineout ball and Harrow were mauling up the field strongly, Finchley were penalised for pulling the maul down. Another lineout and another driving maul saw Eoin go over for a try 5-5.
Within moments Harrow were awarded another penalty on the Finchley 10m line and Billy slotted it, a great kick but also a sign that the elements may play their part. Again immediately from kick off Harrow were now looking rampant as David break through and fed Stuart, a quick ruck and the ball was spread left and Tom showed some good footwork to make it over in the corner 5-13.
On 37mins a good deep kick from the Finchley outside half put Harrow in their own 22, a missed lineout and Finchley pounced and sent the ball wide left at pace, Harrow scrambled defence kept them out but quick ball back right and they were over for a converted try 12-15. A good re-start was tapped back by Gareth into the hands of Adam B who made good ground and from the ruck the ball was fed out to Stuart who cut a great line and glided through under the posts. Con made 12-20 and Half Time.
2nd half saw Finchley come out of the blocks the stronger, using the wind by putting probing kicks into Harrow’s left hand corner. Although nothing came of it Harrow were having to battle hard to gain territory, only for a miss-placed pass or a dropped ball resulting in them once again being sent back towards their own line. On 49mins Finchley had a scrum just inside their own half, despite being under pressure the number 8 managed to pick up, avoid some loose tackles and get over for a try (this one will not be pretty on the video review!). Con missed 17-20
By now it was looking like Finchley had come out the more positive in the second half with strong running being encouraged by some not so strong tackling, Finchley were on the front foot and conversely Harrow could not find any momentum, an attack on the Harrow 22m line led to a penalty for offside and an easy 3 points. It was now 20 all and only one team looked like scoring again.
In fairness Harrow tried to come back at Finchley, but the reds defence was solid and Harrow weren’t able to commit defenders to create any real space and even though Harrow’s scrum was now dominant they were not able to use it as the weapon it had become, perhaps the ref was a little lenient on Finchley, perhaps he wanted a more open game with less penalties. Harrow were attacking but they were now the team making the errors with knock-ons or being penalised at the breakdown. Harrow were again to get in the Finchley red zone, Finchley knocked on and it was gathered by an off-side player but the ref only gave a scrum to Harrow, but they could not use the ball well enough and the opportunity was lost. Three easy points in front of the posts were gone and looking back that was probably the only chance Harrow created to get any points in the 2nd half.
On 67mins we saw what was probably the moment of the match, a superb cross field kick was gathered by the Finchley winger, without breaking stride taking Tom out of the game and he had too much pace for Billy to catch him, it was an excellent piece of play. Con missed and Finchley were back in the lead. The game was now being played between the 22’s with neither team being able to break down the other until Gareth took a short line off Lawrence and sprinted through some tackles. As he made it towards the Finchley half his eyes now shooting around screaming for help as the realisation that he was in large open space sunk in, as he was tackled the Harrow winger was deemed to have crossed in his path, it seemed a strange call, but that was the call. Pen Finchley, who kicked down field and saw the game out to full time. Harrow’s winning streak and league campaign comes to an end.
Harrow’s man of the match went to Stuart although he was run close by the all action David. Special mention goes to Shane Togher, club captain and stalwart who is heading up North to pastures new, he will be sorely missed both on and off the field, we wish him the best of luck. Also to Jamie Taffs who, in his first season as Captain has done a great job along with Coach Doc.
There will be rugby at Harrow next weekend as we host the Champions of Middlesex Premier Merit Table Belsize Park 2’s v the Champions of Herts/Middx Merit Ampthill 3rds ko 2.30pm.