Return to winning ways for the Blackcats
By Caroline Miller
On a cold, wet and windy afternoon Harborough worked hard to grind out a 22-0 victory against Stewarts & Lloyds who started the day one place above the hosts in the league.
Following last week’s defeat to St Ives it was important to put a solid performance together and that is exactly what the team delivered in some pretty difficult playing conditions.
Prior to Saturday’s game Stewarts & Lloyds had only lost on one occasion this season so for the third time in six games Harborough faced a team placed in the top four of the league. Another stern test was therefore guaranteed as is always expected from the Corby based club. An early penalty from Loz Joel gave Harborough the lead but the initial encounters were strewn with errors as both teams struggled to cope with the slippery conditions. Harborough put together several good sets of phases but handling errors let the visitors off the hook just as their defence was getting stretched. When S&L had the ball they made good yards through their strong running centre who was asking questions of the Harborough defence. Several pick and goes got S&L within sniffing distance of the try line but a huge hit on their ball carrier from Joe Caunt ended the attack.
The S&L pack had the ascendancy in the scrums but Harborough’s line out was again dominating and providing the platform to allow them to get in to their attacking shapes. Unfortunately the handling quality wasn’t always as sharp as it normally is which restricted the number of try scoring chances being created..
A try before half time from Loz Joel after some hard carries from the forwards did give Harborough a bit of breathing space but it was all still to play for after 40 minutes.
The second half saw improved scrummaging from the home team and a lot fewer mistakes which allowed them to build more pressure on the opposition defence. This pressure eventually led to a handling error by the S&L 10 when receiving a pass from a scrum in his own 22. The loose ball was collected by Harry Durham who managed to power over the line for a try despite the close attention of two defenders. Loz Joel took the 2 points with a conversion.
By now all three Harborough subs were on the pitch and the final try came after several phases of play created an overlap and simple hands through the backs gave Milkha Basra the chance to score in the corner to take the score to 22-0.
There was to be no 4th try for the home side despite two or three chances to secure the bonus point. A delayed pass when there was an overlap on the right gave the defence time to get up on the Harborough back line and prevent a try that should have seen Harborough take all 5 points. There were lots of massive positives from the game though. The return to action of Timmy Waterfield and man of the match Joe Caunt and a first appearance of the season from prop Alex Adams were all a boost to the senior squad who once again managed to field 3 teams. The line out continued to dominate and the scrum recovered well after a difficult first half. These are great signs as the set piece is so important to providing the basis for success. After a pretty poor defensive showing last week it was great to ‘nil’ the opposition. It’s rare to deliver a total shut out and the hunger and will to get up and defend hard was great to see.