Home comfort should be sealed after Bale runs in another treble

Chris Bale again scored a hat-trick of tries
Chris Bale again scored a hat-trick of tries

Chris Bale scored a hat-trick as Market Harborough ensured they went through the season unbeaten at home.

Harborough saw off a determined Long Buckby 29-20 to register their seventh consecutive win, which almost certainly guarantees a home play-off on April 27.

Carl Strickson made his first XV debut in the 10 shirt and Geordan Stout came in for the unavailable Milkha Basra.

But any changes did nothing to disrupt the home form.

Long Buckby were a much better side than their league position suggests and were looking to complete the double over Harborough.

They dominated possession for much of the first half and took an early lead through a well-worked converted try and a penalty.

At 10-0 down Harborough were struggling to get any phases together.

But when they did manage to mount some pressure with more controlled rugby, Bale broke through a gap to score and Laurence Joel converted.

Harborough started to find some rhythm and great hands in the backs gave Josh Haynes space to run in out wide to earn a 14-10 lead at the break.

That advantage switched with the second half only a minute old as an error gave Buckby the platform to score their second try – a lead they extended soon after with another penalty.

Long Buckby were giving their all and only a few unforced handling errors prevented them from building more pressure on the home team.

Fortunately for Harborough, Joel was leading the defence with countless tackles that stopped the attacking side in their tracks.

With time ticking away Harborough kicked a penalty to the far left hand corner.

From the resulting lineout Bale charged over for his second try.

The conversion took Harborough in to a slender 21-20 lead.

And there was time for the Harborough No.8 to score his second hat-trick in two games to extend the lead further.

It remained tense for the final minutes as Long Buckby remained just six points behind.

But the home side managed to see out the final stages of the game with some controlled phases which resulted in a kickable penalty.

Joel took the three points with the final kick of the game which denied Long Buckby a deserved losing bonus point.