Old Haberdashers embarked on the long journey out of London after the Christmas break
equally excited by the thought of their first game of rugby in three weeks and the opportunity to
burn off a mince pie or two. Just before they departed they were dealt a very late blow on
finding out that Andy Harris had contracted a case of man flu, for which its severity was
matched only by its suddenness. Yet the spirits of the seventeen men left standing would not be
dampened as they ventured out of the capital.
The boys soon discovered that the winter break hadn’t cost them much sharpness as they
looked lively and organised in the warm up, and, following some final rousing words from
captain Whittle they were out and on the pitch ready to hunt for their first win of 2019.
Our previous outing against Southend has seen OH take an early and commanding lead - any
hopes of a repeat were soon forgotten. Southend scored an early, deserved try, taking
advantage of some sloppy Habs penalties to work their way up the field and dot down in the
corner. The deficit was short lived however as OH claimed the ball back off the restart and, able
to exploit the unset defence, flung it out wide to allow Briffit to show a clean set of heels and
canter over for our first try of the afternoon.
Habs then enjoyed a spell of dominance - aided by the return of Fischer the scrum started to
march forward at every occasion and the team settled into their phase play. Before long OH had
engineered another opening allowing James Clark to burst through from the 22 to make his way
over for the score. This was followed later by a 5m scrum the Sanderson brothers walked over
the try line, allowing Clarky to dot the ball down for his second try of the game, and what would
be the easiest he’s ever scored if we didn’t gift him five of them a season to inflate his numbers.
Southend had plenty of moments themselves in a first half that ebbed and flowed - a strong run
in the midfield committed both of the OH second rows in the tackle allowing space for the
offload and for the support play to work their way into the 22. From there Southend turned the
screw and got their just rewards when they managed to force themselves over for another try in
the corner. The addition of a well struck penalty, following more Habs indiscipline, saw the
visitors just 19-13 up at half time.
OH were afforded a bit of breathing space in the second half when Clarky used some quick
thinking (somewhat of a collector’s item) to tap and go off a penalty. He made good ground
before offloading to Miller who further carved up the Southend defence before floating a
sumptuous pass wide for Briff to catch and claim his second of the day. Some more strong
running in the back line saw Miller score a try of his own and daylight began to show on the
Unfortunately, Southend had other ideas. They flew themselves into the contact at every
opportunity and dominated both possession and territory for the closing quarter of the game.
The OH men put in some strong tackles - as well as one or two dubious ones - but there
seemed to be no stopping the flow as Southend made their way in for several second half tries.
With HABS now holding onto a slender 33-30 lead in the dying seconds and with Southend in
possession all seemed to be lost as a short thrown line out allowed the hosts to break down the
wing. With the winning score seemingly inevitable the referee deemed the throw had perhaps
been a bit too short and pulled everyone back for a HABS free-kick allowing us to see out the
game for a well deserved win and an excellent start to 2019.