Following a welcome return to form against Eton Manor, Habs travelled to Rochford with hopes and dreams of defeating the newly crowned league champions.
The warm up was sharp and confidence was high, despite Clarky’s helpful reminder that our opponents would be starting the game with a customary 100 point head start that has served them so well this year.
Habs kicked off and Rochford immediately settled into their structured phase play, using their heavy forwards to crash the ball up to the gain line. Eventually the Rochford fly half picked a gap in the Habs defence and showed a clean pair of heals to dot down in the corner. Conversion missed, 5-0.
The lead was short lived as Habs worked their way deep into the Rochford half. After a series of strong forward carries, the ball made its way to the backs and into the hands of Harry Briffitt who cut a searing line to take him crashing under the posts. Michaels with the conversion, 5–7.
It was not long before the boys from Borehamwood were back in the hosts 22. An attacking scrum provided the launch pad for a well worked set piece move that saw the lesser spotted Josh Downie glide through the Rochford line for Habs second of the game. Michaels with the conversion, 5–14.
Habs front five were exceptional all day and after a series of dominant scrums were rewarded with a penalty that was dutifully nudged into the corner. The Magenta Men had the bit between their teeth and could sense a third try. The lineout was won and Habs edged their way towards the Rochford line absorbing some big hits on the way. James Clark eventually burst through a rare soft shoulder to score. Michaels with the conversion, 5 – 21.
The large home crowd had been silenced. Murmurs of ‘Take Me Home’ could be heard amongst the visitors’ faithful followers. Habs were in uncharted territory...
A piece of foul play in the loose from one of Rochford’s second rows saw them reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes. Unfortunately for Habs this proved to be the catalyst that the home side needed as they went back to basics and used their power game to score two converted tries before the break. 19-21 at half time.
Rochford started the second half as they finished the first and it was not long before their inside centre scored their fourth try. Unconverted, 24-21.
The game then descended into a midfield arm wrestle with both sides battling to gain territory. Ultimately Rochford demonstrated why they are unbeaten in two years, skillfully stretching play and, in turn, the Habs defence. Two well worked tries extended their lead to 36-21.
As time began to run out, Habs dug deep knowing that a bonus point was the least they deserved. A penalty kick to touch took Habs to the halfway line and the lineout, that had gone so well all day, once again delivered clean ball to Whittle. The skipper fizzed the ball to stand in stand-off Michaels who put Miller through a narrow gap - the talismanic figure (who has at least 4 more seasons in the locker) pinned his ears back and the race to the line was on… with the 22 fast approaching Miller drew the fullback before delivering a perfectly weighted pass to his trusted centre partner Harry Briffitt to secure his brace and the crucial fourth try. Michaels with the conversion, 36-28. Full time.
Credit to Rochford for an impressive comeback. They are worthy league champions and we wish them all the best for next season.
For Habs there was a moment of disappointment as the boys felt a second bonus point and the win had slipped through their fingers. Whittle soon pointed out that heads should be held high as no other team had scored that many points against Rochford all season and the highest league finish in Old Haberdashers history had been achieved.
The final game of the season against Old Priorians promises to be a thriller with both sides looking to sign off their 2018/19 campaigns in style.