Old Habs rolled into Harpenden for the first time in a few years on the first Saturday of the advent period looking to gift the skipper the first of 3 big wins for Christmas.
Despite the 4g pitch, the early exchanges were messy, with Habs getting an opportunity to assert their scrum dominance. But it was Harps who came away with the first score, kicking a peno awarded for not rolling away. Habs bounced straight back and after more good work from the front row at the scrum, the length McGhee set the pack up with a line out inside the opposition 22 from the peno. Sando hit the line and the maul rumbled towards the line (a feature of the game for both sides) and Jonny Gatus dotted over for his first try of the week. The length added the extras, 3-7 Habs.
2 quick scores for the opposition came next after some soft tackling (unfortunately another feature of the game), taking the score to 17-7 Harps as Harps asserted their own maul prowess. But Habs re-rallied, with a series of good lineouts and kicks taking the ball into the opposition 22 and with a quick hands, number 8 Clark put Johnson in in the corner, missed conversion 17-12. What came next was a low point for Clark after many questionnable referees decisions, frustration boiled over and he questioned the next one, leading to Habs being marched back 10m into kickable territory, as the Harps 10 humbly obliged, taking the score to 20-12.
The half time team talk pointed out the areas of improvement but Habs came out cold and another dominant Harps position saw Habs defending their line in earnest and Harps touched down for another score. More ping pong followed as Conor made a great break and then finished off another driving maul himself only to have the score pegged back by soft tackling and an offload by harps, taking the score to 34-17.
Late in the game Habs hunted for bonus points and on a 5 metre scrum against the head put so much pressure on in the front row that the ball was spilled out the back and the Harps 10 was forced to touch the ball down for a Habs scrum. Habs couldn’t get their usual shove on but number 8 James ‘Billy Elliot’ Clark pirouetted around 2 men for a score 34-24. Habs had 90 seconds to secure a second bonus point and after some great wide phases, moved swiftly into Harps territory and were given a penalty on the 22 in front of the sticks. Confusion then reigned as the referee insisted the score was 12 points difference and Habs insisted it was 10. Ultimately they kicked to the corner and couldn’t get their third score of the day from a driving maul.
After the game the ref apologised to the skipper for having added up the score wrong and that in actual fact we had been 10 behind with the last play and an easy kick at goal. Lessons were learnt and Habs move on to their next game where they will host Amersham and Chiltern.