Harpenden 25 Chiswick 31
Chiswick, with old boy Andy Barrington in charge, took a huge step forward with this performance against the previously unbeaten League leaders. Missing three of their regular backs, they needed the forwards to do at least some of the attacking, and from the start they looked capable of giving Harpenden a good game – in the last match here between these clubs, the score was 14-14. In a ferocious first four minutes the Chiswick pack showed their mauling power, after Sam Leslie-Miller’s clean lineout take. The pack worked efficiently from the edge of the home 22 to the try line in a series of diagonal moves, with hooker James Dibble getting the final touchdown. Simon Hallett, in a welcome return, and playing at inside centre, slotted the conversion.
A strong wind caused some handling problems, and Chiswick were lucky to survive having a couple of clearance kicks against the stiff breeze charged down. Outside centre Max Burrows, racing back, did very well to rescue the ball on the second occasion. Harpendens’ backs looked dangerous when in possession, and Chiswick’s cause received a setback with the receipt of a yellow card. Twelve minutes in, a sustained home attack finally defeated the strong-tackling Chiswick fourteen, No.12 scorching through for an unconverted try. Although Harpenden had an edge in the scrums, the Chiswick forwards, together with scrum half Ross Dovey, made life difficult for the home scrum half, thereby depriving the hosts of quick ball from these set plays. A penalty kick then put the home team in front, however, and directly from the kickoff they went further ahead, with some muscular dismissal of would-be tacklers and a coterie of support players leading to a try. The kick failed.
Some enterprising play enlivened the rest of the first half, with a break by the outstanding Jon Olley requiring four tacklers to halt, and some excellent wind-assisted kicks by the home team putting Chiswick in all sorts of trouble, with wing Ed Peach doing very well to counter-attack when under pressure, before having to retire with an ankle injury. With five minutes to go, Harpendens’ backs conjured up a neat move to put their outside centre in for a try, duly converted.
Play swung from end-to-end in the second half, with first Chiswick, then Harpenden, good on counter-attacks, being in charge. Chiswick were lucky, when the ball was dropped close to the try line in one such one Harpenden counter, and Harpenden, when a misdirected final pass thwarted Chiswick in the home 22. It was Olley who started the move leading to the next score, Marc Copperwheat, Burrows, Jon Joyce, Dovey, Gabs Lowe and the sub wing Rich Small all being involved before Hallett and Dibble took over, only for Simon Allen-Clarke to feed Dan Purkiss who put Dovey in for a great team try, converted by Hallett.
With a losing bonus point within sight, Chiswick might have eased up, but nothing of the sort. Although mainly trying to control the game, they used the backing wind to gain territory, risking the counter-attacks. A successful Hallett penalty kick took them to within three points, with Harpenden looking and sounding increasingly nervous. Unfortunately, with fifteen minutes to go, Harpenden took advantage of some space out wide to run down the right wing, and score out to the right, the kick failing. Eight points behind. With ten minutes to go, Chiswick set up camp near the home line, and Olley found a way through the bodies after a ruck to run round and score near the posts. One point in it after Hallett’s conversion.
Another efficient lineout, another successful maul and another (converted) try for Dibble provided the exciting climax to a thrilling match, leaving a jubilant Chiswick camp to celebrate in style, and a despondent Harpenden with one point as compensation.
More Photos online here thanks to Harpenden RFC.
T: Dibble (2), Dovey, Olley
C: Hallett (4)
Chiswick team: Parmeter, Dibble, Allen-Clarke, Copperwheat, Hood, Joyce, Olley, Leslie-Miller, Dovey, Purkiss, Hitchcock, Hallett, Peach, Lowe; Small, Barkham, Bryan