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Rugby: Rams up their game at Upminster

Lifestyle / Wed 6th Nov 2013 am30 11:56am

London & South East Div III NE

Upminster 12 v 13 Harlow

THE two teams started the game in adjacent positions in the League and it ran true to form; you could not have had a closer contest. The two sides were close together throughout and the game was decided in the most dramatic way in the final minute of playing time.

The league contest gets closer every week with little to choose between the clubs in mid table. At the top Sudbury, until then the only undefeated side lost to a revitalized Wanstead and although their previous performances keeps them top, it shows the chasers that the contest is still very open. From a Harlow point of view it puts them into fifth place but on Saturday they are at home to Old Cooperians who are third and with a very consistent record. Expect a hard fought contest and, on recent form, some great rugby.

The game was played in strong gusting wind and for almost all of the first half heavy rain, made handling difficult and putting great pressure on the kickers. Harlow started strongly getting clean possession and driving deep into the Upminster half only for the final pass to go astray when it looked as if the try was on. Immediately afterwards Harlow were awarded a penalty but Dobson was just wide. For the next ten minutes Harlow dominated play but as time went by the home side settled down and their defence became more effective. On twenty minutes Rob Mackie the Harlow fullback made a good break opening a gap in the defence before passing inside to lock forward James Unwin who ran in for the try. The conversion missed but the 5 point lead, on a day which was not going to produce high scoring, was a big boost to Harlow. From the re-start Upminster took play up into the Harlow 22. A good handling move looked like a threat until a handling error saw the ball on the ground. Harlow winger Chris Webb kicked the ball downfield and chased after it with a defender in close pursuit. Attempting to gather the ball would have seen him caught so twice more he sent it downfield with the boot winning the final race to touch down in the corner. Dobson’s conversion attempt hit the post, a good attempt in the conditions; 10 – 0 to Harlow. Upminster responded immediately taking play up into the Harlow 22. Good handling saw their outside centre get within 10 yards of the line. He was tackled but off-loaded to his winger who scored in the corner. Into the wind the conversion did not carry and the score 5 – 10 in Harlow’s favour remained until half time.

For the second half Harlow were playing up the considerable slope, fortunately it was a crosswind rather than in their faces. Although the rain had stopped with the ball wet and slippery and ground heavy both teams concentrated on their forwards. For almost half an hour it was largely a battle between the two packs. Harlow took good possession from the rucks and mauls but as soon as they came away with the ball they ran into a solid Upminster defensive line. Upminster tried to pin Harlow back with long kicks down the slope but almost all of their kicks were returned by either Dobson or Mackie, usually gaining ground. On seventy minutes just when it looked as if Harlow would hold on to the slim lead they were penalized close to the Harlow try line. Knowing that three points would not be enough Upminster opted to drive for the line. Harlow held them up but they moved the ball wide and found a gap in the defence to run in the try. Their conversion was good making it 12 – 10 in their favour. With the clock running down Harlow threw everything into the attack. They were helped by the fact that having brought fresh legs into the scrum they were now dominant in the set pieces driving Upminster back all the time and picking up the occasional penalty for collapsing.

With five minutes to go they were awarded a penalty about thirty-five yards out. Roberts asked Dobson to try for the posts and despite the conditions he put the ball over to give Harlow a one point lead. Until the final minute they managed to defend by the simple tactic of keeping play well inside the Upminster half. Then with a minute to go the home side made a long pass to their winger who was unmarked. He set of at a sprint down the touchline and looked to be clear for a certain try. The as he was well into the Harlow 22 he was taken out with a super tackle by Jamie Fricker who had sprinted almost the width of the field. Fricker was immediately on his feet to grab the ball and put it into touch, at which point the referee blew the whistle for the end of the game.

The Old Cooperians game on Saturday will kick off at 2.30, admission is free, why not come along for the best sports entertainment bargain in Harlow.

Tries: James Unwin, Chris Webb
Penalty: Michael Dobson

Team: 1. Danny Stonehouse, 2. Mark Bowering, 3. James Ephgrave, 4. Kerry Palmer, 5. James Unwin, 6. Shaun Roberts (Capt.), 7. Josh Drake, 8. Kain Claridge, 9. Rhys Powell, 10. Michael Dobson, 11. Chris Webb, 12. Luke Bowering, 13. Gareth Powell, 14. Jamie Fricker, 15. Rob Mackie, 16. Paul Eynon, 17. Paul Prindiville, 18. Wayne Heapy.
All replacements used in second half rotations.

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