Handling errors and missed tackles meant Chiswick missed out on the opportunity to do the double over Harpenden.
Chiswick could have left the game with 5 points but ultimately left with none, Harpenden taking the spoils at the full time whistle 35-19.
The game did mark 100 for Chiswick speedster Tom Steer, with Jamie Cairns making his debut on the other wing.
A hyped-up Harpenden, intent on revenge for the defeat by Chiswick earlier in the season gave instant notice of intent at the kickoff, and were lucky to avoid a yellow card after the home No.7, Tom Gadsby was hit in the air jumping for the ball. They continued to exert early pressure, with a mobile back division creating a number of overlap situations against a necessarily re-organised home back division missing their captain and full-back, Dan Sutherland. The 10/12 combination of Simon Hallett and Gabs Lowe did not quite match up to the England equivalent of Ford and Farrell, and the Harpenden backs were quick and sure-footed on a slightly slippery pitch.
The opening score came in fact after a good Chiswick attack, based on good mauling and re-cycling had foundered on a knock-on in the right corner. Harpenden came back strongly and the Chiswick left wing, James Cairns slipped when facing two attackers. A despairing cover tackle by scrum half Russ Dovey failed to prevent the try, which was not converted,the kick coming back off the post. It was soon apparent, however, that Chiswick had an edge in the scrums, and with the lineouts, long a source of problems for the home team, working well, the game seemed well-balanced. Nervous mistakes aplenty affected both teams at this stage, but the next score came from a sinple offside decision against Chiswick, the kick soaring over from 30 metres.
Chiswick responded vigorously with a lot of phases of possession taking them into the Harpenden 22. A lineout take by Jon Joyce was followed by a scintillating burst from Simon Allen-Clarke to within a few feet of the visitors’ posts. A quick tap and go, and Dovey was through near the posts,Hallett adding the points. Chiswick were now putting on the pressure, and Lowe nearly got through the defence. Hallett kicked for corner, and the lineout was successful, but when the ball was moved along the line the attack fizzled out. Matt Cooper at No.8 was making good progress in the loose as Chiswick remained on top, as did Ed East at No.13. It was the latter who nearly made it to the line before Harpenden mucked up a throw-in to give Chiswick a penalty in a useful position in injury time. Hallett kicked for the corner; James Dibble found Gadsby with the throw, and Chiswick mauled over the line, with the backs joining in the shove, Cooper getting the congratulations as the pile slowly got back to their feet. Hallett’s attempt at the conversion was one he will want to forget.
Disaster struck Chiswick early in the second half, the Harpenden wing making the home defence look silly with quick side steps and fast feet to score in the left corner. A superb kick added the points to boost the visitors’ morale. Chiswick now lost Cairns to injury, with Luca Vannini coming on, and then went further behind to a penalty goal. James Filbey now came on in place of the ever-enthusiastic Marco Chraplewczyk, and eventually the back division was re-moulded with Gadsby going out on the wing, ( Ben Kelly coming on at No.7, where he did an excellent job), and Vannini trying his hand at full back. Tom Steer almost made it to the line as Chiswick fought back, with Marc Copperwheat in the thick of things all the time. Harpenden owed a lot at this stage to their No.8, usually having to rescue the ball from a retreating scrum, and still making good yards with the ball, but it was through a broken play that Harpenden next profited, their full back fielding an ok clearance kick by Dan Purkiss in midfield, and racing straight through the home team, slow to respond to the situation and disjointed in the chase, to score under the posts, taking the score to 25-12.
Chiswick were still in the game, and their chances improved with the forced retirement of Harpenden’s tormenting No.13. Lowe made a good break, but one of many knocks-on spoiled a promising move. Purkiss then saved Chiswick with a great cover tackle when their right wing got loose and was racing down the line. As play swung from end-to-end, a great break by East led to a try for Kelly, converted by Hallett, and at least a point seemed a good possibility for the home team. Unfortunately the last score was a converted try for Harpenden after some weak tackling let their opponents’ wing through for a vital try as they strive to keep up with H.A.C and Hampstead in the race for promotion.
Author: Dave Lovell
Chiswick team: Barkham, Dibble, Chraplewczyk, Copperwheat, Allen-Clarke, Joyce, Gadsby, Cooper, Dovey, Hallett, Cairns, Lowe, East, Steer, Purkiss; Filbey, Kelly, Vannini
T: Dovey, Cooper, Kelly
C: Hallett (2)
Matt Cooper rolls over for Chiswick’s second try