The weather once again forced Habs hand to move their crucial game in the fight to playoffs to Harpenden, somewhat a home away from home these days.
Despite the change in venue and the rushed warm up Habs came out of the blocks firing with the wind at their back. Some powerful scrummaging backed up with a precise kicking game got Habs into some strong field position. The first scoring opportunity came with a penalty in front of the sticks. The length McGhee did his job but not in the usual fashion. Stepping up to for the strike, the ball falls off the tee. Lesser players would have panicked but not this man. McGhee Scoops it up and slots a drop goal. Not for the first time this season, 3-0 Habs and a strong start.
10 minutes in, Habs take their first try scoring opportunity clinically. A strong scrum wheeled off to the left allowing James Clark to pick and pop to the skip who took a couple of steps before sending George Sleepbrook through untouched and down for the score in the corner. Conversion unsuccessful, fair to say the wind made this extremely difficult.
Having gone 10-0 down this kick started Colchester into the game. Some poor Habs discipline gave Colchester 3 consecutive penalties and allowed easy field position. Lineout on the 5, catch and drive and after a strong maul, score. 10-7.
As the game began to become an arm wrestle it took some big tackles and a huge boot to regain the territory and the upper hand. Fly half Tom Jackson took advantage of some poor positional play from the Colchester back 3 and pinged Colchester back to their 5m line from a kick just outside his own 22. With a tough wind the lineout was never going to be an easy win. Habs steal and drive over for a 2nd try. This time our winger Conor Michaels found himself right in amongst the forwards to get the score. The man does love joining a maul. Another tricky conversion missed, 15-7 to Habs.
With tails up Habs we’re flying, scoring another 2 tries and securing another 4 try bonus point before half time. The 3rd try was from in-form number 8 James Clark, controlling well (as he has all season) from the base of a revved up Habs scrum, particular mention to the Sanderson brothers and Jonny Gatus for their relentless workrate in the scrum in the first 40. Just before halftime, Harry Briffitt hit a nice line off Tom Jackson and powered through both centres attempted tackles, then the fullback and finally the wing even had a go and they still couldn't halt the tree's momentum, inferior in physicality and looks. HT 25-10 Habs.
Turning round at half time Habs knew they were in for a more difficult 2nd half. Going into the wind, the halftime team talk was one of being up for the fight and wrestling momentum at any opportunity. It turned out to be a very challenging half with possession at a premium and we were restricted to no further points as Colchesters 10 used the wind as effectively as we had done.
Colchester did struggle to cleanly break down the strong Habs defence throughout the 2nd half but having the ball for 30/35 minutes they were always going to score points. As Colchester rang the changes in the scrum, momentum began to turn and ultimately so did the game. Their excellent replacement prop gave fresh legs and plenty of energy to the Colchester pack and the Habs scrum struggled to contain him. Despite resilient defence from all, Colchester mustered up 3 fairly boring tries to take the game away from Habs in the final seconds of the game. They are a team that loves a pick and go around the edges, must be dull for their backs to watch but it was effective. Game ended 27-25. A second losing bonus point for Habs but no consolation after an excellent effort from the boys.
Special mention to a certain Mike Marsden, playing in his last game for the club before baby Finley arrived on Monday 9th of March. Congratulations to Mike on a stellar Habs career with 137 first XV caps, millions of lineout wins and generally being a superb team mate to all he pulled on the jersey with. Good luck to Mike and Vicky in parenthood and we look forward to Finley taking the field for Habs in 20 years or so!
Back to the season, next up for Habs is Sudbury away, we are now 1 point off Colchester in 2nd so plenty to play for! I think it’s fair to say the boys showed a lot of heart and talent but ultimately fell short to a good disciplined Colchester outfit.
Thank you for all those in attendance, Harpenden really did feel like our home due to travelling fans and hospitality on show.
Up the Habs!