MARKET Harborough RFC under-16s’ got excellent preparation for a county cup clash against South Leicester on Sunday with a 31-7 victory over Oakham.
The Harborough side returned to action with a superb performance at the weekend.
With a three-week gap since they last played, they were a little rusty and there were errors, but there was huge commitment from the whole squad against a strong opposing team who believed that they could win.
From the start Oakham used the ball well with quick hands and strong running but time and again Harborough’s defence stood firm and their line was not threatened.
It was Harborough who scored first when good ball allowed Joel Nance to make a break and quick hands by Joe Margetts gave Alex Haynes the space he needed to run in the first try, which was converted by Laurence Joel.
The Harborough pack were starting to dominate and a rampaging run saw the ball pop up to Jack Batkin, who cleverly released Joe Margetts to run in at the corner.
The possession and territory remained even but it was Harborough who used the ball more effectively and a powerful run by Jayk Dressler saw him move close to the line before he gave the ball to the excellent Fred Highton, who outstripped the Oakham defence to touch down beneath the posts for a third try converted by Joel.
Not to be outdone, Oakham continued to press and were rewarded with a clever try from a set scrum when Nick Houghton drove over to touch down, with the conversion by Callum Crellin bringing the half-time score to 19-7 in Harborough’s favour.
The second half proved a much more even contest although the number of penalties and free-kicks conceded at the set piece and breakdown made it a stop-start game.
Oakham came close to closing the gap when from turnover ball they broke free and a kick ahead saw them close in for a try but Nance won the chase to touch down and clear the Harborough lines.
This appeared to galvanise Harborough and Ed Marshall, who was having a fine game, picked the ball up on his own 22 and raced clear.
He was tackled but the support was good, with Timmy Waterfield prominent, and repeated drives to the line resulted in a pick-up from Dressler, who was unstoppable from five metres and the conversion from Joel stretched the lead to 26-7.
The final act came from further driving play after George Thornton was illegally tackled near the line. The ball was released to Haynes, who touched down to score the remaining points.
Harborough u14s 36 Nuneaton 5
AN early pitch inspection at Harborough’s Northampton Road ground determined the under-14s’ match went ahead as scheduled, with firm underfoot conditions but bathed in crisp and cold winter sunshine, the coaches and parents were rewarded with a top performance from the home side.
However Harborough made the worst start possible – from a failed kick-off the resulting scrum on the centreline gave Nuneaton’s big fly-half the opportunity to swat aside some lightweight tackling and stroll in for a try.
Harborough were quickly back on the front foot, gaining possession and territory and releasing Jerzy Wydra space through the middle to bring the scores to 5-5.
The Harborough 9-10 combination of Ollie Dawson and Will Pollard were enjoying good quality possession, giving the backs clean ball to run at the opposition but despite gaining ground the Blacks were unable to cross the whitewash again before half-time.
A flurry of substitutes at the break provided a surge of energy to open the second half and the try of the game that started from a defensive scrum had the ball passing through the backs’ hands and being recycled several times before debutant Henry Bamber crashed over to score in the corner, with Huw Williams adding an impressive conversion from the most difficult of positions.
Almost immediately Harborough pinned Nuneaton back in their 22 with good pressure across the field and they scored from the base of a scrum, driving over with several defenders hanging off.
In the last quarter Nuneaton enjoyed their best phase of the game but despite winning more ball at the breakdown they were unable to really threaten.
In fact their forward momentum allowed Wydra to demonstrate his knack of spotting weak areas in the defensive line and coast over for three further tries, two of which were converted.