Old Haberdashers’ went into the weekend determined to right the wrongs of a narrow loss the week before, welcoming similarly placed Sudbury to Croxdale Road for what proved to be a nail biter.
Habs raced out of the blocks in style, immediately benefitting from the set piece dominance that had brought so much joy the week before; Fisher and the Sandersons setting the tone at the scrum whilst Mike and Clarky controlled the lineout. Eventually the pressure told as Ian ‘The Length’ McGhee made a dart inside their 22 and got his arms free to look for a support runner on his shoulder. Charging on to a hastily thrown offload, Joey Horsham showed killer instinct with the finish right under the sticks, juggling and then grounding the loose ball with one hand. A simple conversion completed the perfect start and the boys returned to their half itching for more.
The next few minutes followed a similar pattern as Habs dictated the tempo of the game with their phase play. This allowed the backs to show their class again with a couple of consecutive passes out the back to send Horsham in to the corner for his second try. The conversion was missed but Habs were in cruise control at 12-0 with barely fifteen minutes played.
After such an electric start, a touch of complacency seeped into the ranks and Sudbury took full advantage. Out of nowhere one runner broke through a number of tackles down the wing and, after a couple of short passes, the visitors had scored with their first entry into the 22. Having conceded the try Habs initially struggled to regain their grip on the contest, with the poor conditions contributing to a number of handling errors and the Sudbury pack targeting the breakdown to great effect.
Sudbury made the most of this swing in momentum and found themselves in the home side’s 22 again, pressuring the Habs line before flinging it wide for a walk in try. At 12-12 the game was finely balanced and Habs did well to work their way back into the contest with early substitute George Seabrook coming on to make an impact up front. Having stemmed the tide of Sudbury pressure, Habs went into the break ruing their lapse in concentration and eager to re-assert themselves in the second half.
This was not to be, however, as the wet and windy conditions contributed to one of the grittiest halves of the season so far. The game became error strewn, both sides struggling to keep the ball for longer than a few phases and opting to kick instead. Habs did go agonisingly close with one move, denied only by poor handling from five metres out as Horsham demonstrated his commitment to hat-trick avoidance. In one of the more enjoyable moments of the half, a Sudbury kick found its way onto the heel of a retreating Thommy The Gunn who (deliberately?) flicked it into the air and regathered to truck back up the field.
Ultimately, the difference between the teams was their respective decision making in front of the posts. With points hard to come by Habs gratefully accepted the chance for a shot at goal. Substitute Tom Jackson obliged and stepped up to put the home side 15-12 ahead. This set up a tense finish as Sudbury were awarded a very kickable penalty but, sensing a chance to snatch victory, opted for the tap and go. The opposition runners were duly sent back up the hill by the Habs defence, and the last few minutes saw some more heroic defending across the board with Lewry and Gatus putting in a number of crucial tackles. When Habs finally got possession back for the final two minutes Whittle roared at the pack to keep the play tight, spurring the boys on to see out the game and secure a hard-earned win.
Whilst the game wasn’t the easiest on the eye, Habs undoubtedly showed great resilience to grind out a hard fought victory in testing circumstances. This rounded up a fantastic day for the club as three teams were fielded (with three wins) for the first time in over twenty years, and the boys marked the occasion by celebrating in true style at the evening's Habtoberfest social.