ALTHOUGH pipped 25-21, Market Harborough 1sts could take comfort from their battling show against a Bugbrooke team certain to present a serious challenge to the best sides in the league.
Despite unfavourable weather conditions at Northampton Road on Saturday, both teams contrived to produce a fast-flowing and exciting game.
Visitors Bugbrooke snatched an early lead with a well-struck penalty but almost immediately Harborough launched an unstoppable counter-attack which resulted in Ed Sumpter going over for a try. Will Taylor converted the straightforward conversion to set up a 7-3 advantage.
Although the Harborough scrum was under pressure, the lineout performed well in the first half so both teams enjoyed an equal amount of possession, with both endeavouring to play the ball through hands rather than kick for position.
Although the Harborough passing was not as crisp as that of their opponents, a second try always looked possible as the driving runs of Michael Goode and James Grant threatened to unravel the visitors’ defence.
Bugbrooke earned a second penalty for a ruck infringement to reduce the arrears before their three-quarters produced a classic left to right move which was finished at pace, and in style, by their right wing three-quarter.
With this score converted, the visitors were ahead 13-7, a score which survived until half-time.
With the icy wind continuing to gust in any which direction, both teams elected to keep the ball in hand rather than opt for a kicking game.
Harborough earned an early score and a narrow lead with their second try. A powerful run by Michael Woodford dented the visitors’ defence and, from the ensuing ruck, the hosts moved the ball through hands.
Although the final pass looked as though it may have gone astray, Joe Whitworth claimed the ball and crashed over in the corner to complete an excellent passage of play.
Unfortunately for Harborough, their lead was short-lived as they then failed to collect the re-start giving Bugbrooke the chance to build pressure.
The initial surge for the line was resisted but the try could not be prevented, creating an 18-14 deficit.
Harborough continued to battle hard with their back row in particular showing an appetite for contact but their defence always looked vulnerable against the passing skills and pace of the visitors. A cross-field move started in their own half stretched the Harborough defence and, with the finishing pace of their outside backs proving decisive, Bugbrooke added their third try for a 25-13 lead.
To their credit Harborough did not allow this try to demoralise them as they battled back onto the offensive.
An attacking lineout came to nothing but when Bugbrooke were again penalised Harborough elected to kick for the corner rather than go for goal.
Once again the drive was halted but on this occasion Harborough retained possession.
The ball was moved swiftly into midfield and, with Taylor giving a delightful short pass, Chris Owens raced through under the posts untouched by an opponent.
With just one score separating the two teams the game was there to be won by Harborough but, frustratingly for players and spectators alike, they could not muster another spell of control and so failed to peg back their opponents.
Teams for November 3:
First Team away league game against Dunstablians. Meet 11.45am KO 2.15pm. Squad D Bailey, S Blades, A Blatchly, M Goode, J Grant, H Hurst, T Lockwood, T Naylor, C Owen, C Ralston, L Riordan, K Robinson, M Sneath, C Standley, E Sumpter, W Taylor, M Woodford, S Ziemelis.
Second Team. Home league game against Syston 2nds. Meet 1pm KO 2.15pm. Squad N Airey, M Alcorn, S Atkins, J Blades, C Brown, R Charlesworth, H Davis, H Hollis, J Johnston, G Lee, J Lee, M Marlow-Thomas, D Shepherd, C Smith, C Smith, B Spowage, N Watson, P Wilson.
Vets/Thirds. Home league game against Vipers Thirds. Meet 1pm KO 2.15pm. Squad Vets, plus D Broughton, B Smith, E Sanderson , K Naylor, A Sumpter, B Saunders, G Carter, G Rice, C Lepper.
Colts. Away League game against Nuneaton Colts. KO 2.15pm.