Market Harborough started their Midlands Two East (South) campaign with a hard-fought 29-6 victory at Rushden & Higham in wet and slippery conditions.
Harborough’s plan of keeping the ball tight got lost in the opening quarter as they kicked the ball away and allowed the opposition to run back at them.
This led to a period of dominance for Rushden and it was only Harborough’s excellent defence that kept them out.
The visitors took the lead when the excellent Josh Haynes kicked into space and then hacked the ball through.
Ed Parker won the race to touch down but Harry Durham’s conversion rebounded of the upright.
Harborough were struggling to get quick ball or spread it wide despite the efforts of Dan Brady at scrum-half.
The ‘All Blacks’ were also conceding too many penalties and this led to Rushden reducing the deficit to 5-3.
But they extended their lead before half-time as Michael Woodford touched down in the corner after excellent forward pressure.
This had followed one of many off-the-ball incidents which saw a player from both sides red-carded.
The second half continued in the same vein with Harborough still struggling to get the ball wide and Rushden doubled their points tally with another penalty.
But midway through the half Harborough started to play their way.
They refused to get drawn into the combative tactics of the opposition which led to an excellent break following quick ball from Brady with Haynes and skipper Caolann Fitzpatrick combining and set Parker on another run to touch down in the corner for his second try.
Harborough then began to look a class apart with Brady taking control behind some strong forward play.
Durham was taking all the right options and Fitzpatrick controlled the midfield.
This led to two sparkling tries by man-of-the-match Haynes as he showed his pace and skill to run in under the posts and with Durham converting both to complete a bonus-point win.
The pace of the backs did secure most of the points but there is little doubt that this performance owed much to hard work up front, fitness and outstanding defence.
There was also an excellent performance from the second team which triumphed 50-15 at Rushden.
The larger Rushden forwards tried to starve the visitors of possession but Harborough gradually took control.
Fergus Clarke, Shaun Morris, Ian Barnett, Tim Waterfield and Stef Ziemelis all bagged tries as Harborough’s fitness and youthful exuberance was the key to victory.