Second half slump is survived

SECOND HALF complacency could have cost Market Harborough 1st XV dear as they failed to build on a healthy interval lead – but they hung on to claim an 18-6 victory at Wellingborough.

From the off Harborough gained a slight advantage in the set pieces, a somewhat rare event of late, and this enabled them to control the territory.

A superb break early on by Adam Blatchley set up an excellent attacking position and, although the home team contained the attack, they did so illegally, giving Will Taylor a simple shot at goal to claim an early and deserved lead.

With this early encouragement Harborough continued to press forward and, following a powerful scrummage, Taylor dummied his way through the home defence to score a fine solo try.

With the conversion added, Harborough held a comfortable 10-0 advantage but then relaxed their efforts to allow Wellinborough back into the game. A ruck infringement and then a needless illegal block resulted in two penalties to the hosts, which were both converted.

Taylor replied with his own second penalty before Harborough produced a superb spell of attacking rugby. Following a lineout their impressive young backline moved the ball at pace but they were halted just short of the try line. From the resulting ruck Taylor measured a cross-kick to near perfection, only for the bounce to favour the home team.

Although the ball was cleared, Harborough were soon attacking again and a long pass to Chris Owen gave him the space to beat his opponent on the outside to score another well-deserved try.

With an 18-6 half-time lead and a slight slope in their favour in the second period, Harborough were surely expecting a comfortable and straightforward victory.

Whatever was in their half-time refreshment drinks did wonders to galvanise the home team as they totally dominated possession and territory for all but the last five minutes of the second half.

With an almost continuous supply of ball the Wellingborough players battered away in an attempt to score a try but they were thwarted on every occasion by the resilient Harborough defence or their own incompetence in retaining the ball at the breakdown.

Although Harborough’s scrum remained competitive, the lineout all too often failed to deliver good ball, resulting in Harborough’s half-backs being under pressure as they attempted to clear the ball out of defence.

Wellingborough’s siege continued but their efforts to bash their way through tackles was too predictable and their refusal to kick for goal, when awarded penalties, wasbaffling.

Harborough’s captain Michael Goode was prominent throughout the second half and, with notable contributions from Charlie Standley and Joe Whitworth, Harborough somehow held onto their lead.

With just five minutes of the match remaining Harborough managed to cross the halfway line for the first time in the half and were immediately awarded a penalty. Given the balance of play for this period it would have been ludicrous had Harborough scored the only points of the half. Taylor’s kick, however, just shaded the outside of the post and with the referee blowing the final whistle shortly after, the Harborough players were pleased to leave the pitch with their interval lead intact.

Harborough 2nds were no match for a powerful Hinckley side as they crashed to a 65-8 home defeat.

The club’s veterans, meanwhile, showed their strengths to overcome Oadby Wyggs 3rds 24-5.

The Colts, also up against their Wyggs counterparts, came unstuck in a 36-22 away defeat.

Harborough teams for Saturday:

1st (home, league v Bugbrooke, meet 1.30pm, ko 3) - squad D Bailey, E Bale, M Goode, J Grant, H Hollis, R Jeacock, T Lockwood, C Owen, C Ralston, L Riordan, K Robinson, M Sneath, C Standley, E Sumpter, W Taylor, J Whitworth, M Woodford, S Ziemelis.

2nd (away, league v Leicester Lions 3rd, meet 1.15, ko 3) - squad N Airey, S Atkins, J Baird, S Blades, D Broughton, L Butler, R Charlesworth, H Davies, H Hurst, J Jeacock, G Lee, J Lee, M Marlow-Thomas, E Prowse, D Shepherd, C Smith, B Spowage, P Wilson.

Vets/3rd (home friendly v Market Deeping 2nd, meet 1.45, ko 3) - squad Vets + M Alcorn, B Bee, J Blades, C Brown, G Carter, B Costello, B Lawnizcak, C Lepper, K Naylor, G Rice, B Saunders, B Smith, C Smith, A Sumpter, N Watson, J Welch.

Colts home in league against Vipers (ko 3).