A BELOW-PAR effort against a team languishing at the foot of the league cost Market Harborough 1st XV a disappointing 17-13 at Biggleswade.
Prior to the game there was every expectation in the Harborough camp that they would continue their recent good form – particularly given the fact their opponents had already conceded more than 300 points in just eight games.
But it was not to be.
Playing against the elements in the first half, Harborough were immediately under pressure and were fortunate that Biggleswade’s goal kicker failed with his first two straightforward attempts.
Despite these let-offs, Harborough struggled to achieve any continuity and rarely threatened to mount any meaningful attack.
Too often individual runners became isolated or, when passing moves were attempted, there was a lack of precision.
The home team deservedly took the lead with their third kick at goal and soon after, a sustained spell of pressure resulted in a converted try to give them a 10-0 advantage.
Harborough continued to stutter and with their set pieces under pressure they rarely provided the half-backs with good enough ball to develop their game.
Buoyed by their early success, the home team pressed forward and, when a yellow card was awarded to visiting George Lee, they made their numerical advantage count as they bullied the ball over the line again from an attacking lineout.
That score signalled a response from Harborough as they pressed forward and applied some pressure on the home defence.
However, try as they might, they could not put enough phases together to get through, other than a consolation Will Taylor penalty just before half-time.
With the wind at their backs in the second half Harborough might have hoped they held the get out of jail card but they enjoyed no such good fortune.
An early Taylor penalty further cut the arrears but their play continued to be fractured and error-ridden.
What little good ball given to the backs was wasted by poor passing or solitary runners dashing into a solid defence, and too little thought was given to kicking for position.
The briefest flash of enterprise, helped by some rarely seen secure passing, gave a hint of what might have been for Harborough as Tom Bale crossed over for a try wide out.
But, sadly for the travelling supporters, this was as good as it got.
The hosts continued to hold the advantage in the set pieces and executed their limited game plan of driving the ball up the short side far more successfully than Harborough, who seemed to have few ideas for fashioning their next score.
Although Biggleswade rarely threatened to add to their score they did construct one excellent three-quarter move which carried the ball deep into the Harborough half before a poor pass halted their progress.
At the other end, a typically energetic carry by Harry Hollis from deep in defence was one of few bright moments of the half.
As the game progressed, Harborough looked more and more unlikely to grab the one score which might have given them a surprising, but completely undeserved victory.
The team lacked the cohesiveness and spirit which has been so evident in previous games and with both half-backs struggling with their own game they lacked direction and inspiration.
Although Harborough can point to the absence of three key players as a contributory factor to the defeat, they should, by their own admission, have performed better than they did and they will certainly need to re-discover their energy and appetite as they approach the local derby against Lutterworth in two weeks’ time.
Market Harborough RFC selections for this Saturday:
Development team (away at Towcester, meet midday for 2.15pm kick-off) - squad E Bale, C Brown, L Butler, R Charlesworth, J Grant, H Hurst, J Johnston, G Lee, J Lee, T Lockwood, S Morris, Ta Naylor, C Owen, C Ralston, L Riordan, D Shepherd, R Smith, W Taylor, P Wilson, S Ziemelis.
Veterans - league game away at Stoneygate Social, ko 2.15pm.
Colts - away at Lutterworth Colts, ko 2.15pm.