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Rugby: Harlow Rams win Division 2 Plate

Rugby / Wed 3rd Apr 2019 am30 11:36am

Chelmsford 21 v 36 Harlow

BY Harlow Rugby Club

Saturday 30th March 2019 saw the final outing of this season for the Harlow Rams; a trip to Bancroft RFC for Essex Merit League Finals Day for the Division 2 Plate final.

The honours between Harlow and Chelmsford had been evenly split so far this season; a Harlow home win in early November followed by Chelmsford taking the spoils in the return fixture. On paper it looked beforehand as if this was going to be a very close affair.

It was apparent prior to kick off that, pound for pound, with the possible exception of Ash Westall, the Chelmsford players had the advantage; their pack towering over the Harlow eight but, as recent results have shown, this young Rams side can definitely punch above their weight. This was clear in the opening minutes when successive Chelmsford attacks were repulsed with bone-shuddering tackles; Westall driving the big Fijian Centre ten metres back in the tackle and drilling him into the ground epitomising the effort shown by all.

A Chelmsford driving maul from a lineout on the halfway line brought the first opening of the game as it sucked in defenders and created the merest gap for the Chelmsford back to exploit. Ten minutes on the clock and The Rams down 0-7.

A turnover at the restart gave Harlow an instant chance to level the score following quick hands down the blindside, Jack Snell standing up the final defender before delivering the try-scoring pass to Sam Allen just outside the Chelmsford twenty-two. Allen raced for the line but was prevented from grounding the ball by the last desperate defender who just managed to knock the ball from Allen’s grasp as he was in the process of touching down over the line. A minor setback but the levelling score was soon to come.

The Harlow attack was now in full flow, pulling defenders from one side of the pitch to the other, looking for the elusive opening. It was Alfie Clark who finally forced the breach, twisting and stepping his way through the defence to post the first Harlow score of the day, Ben Seymour slotting over the extras from out wide; 7-7.

A Chelmsford scrum on their own twenty-two was to provide the base for the second Harlow score. Scrum safely won and ball delivered to the Chelmsford ten for a textbook clearance. Only trouble was the ball was closely followed by the charging Sulli Ashcroft, breaking from the side of the scrum like lightning and slamming into the opposition ten. The quick support of Alfie Clark and Simon Vanbeck forced the turnover and Vanbeck barged his way through the defence to touch down under the posts; 14-7.

The first half was drawing to a rapid close but Chelmsford were determined to have the final say before the whistle was blown and again their pack forced the opening for their speeding winger to exploit. Halftime Whistle; 14-14.

A lapse in concentration at the start of the second half and Harlow found themselves 14-21 down. Stern words from Rams Captain, Ben Seymour, brought the desired effect and hostilities were quickly resumed.

The two teams were very evenly matched, neither side prepared to give an inch. Sam Allen was next on the scoresheet, this time managing to touch the ball down once he’d crossed the line; 19-21. It was starting to get very interesting! The contest seemed confined to the middle third of the pitch for the next fifteen minutes as neither team could manage to penetrate the opposing defence.

As the time gradually ticked away it appeared that Chelmsford had grasped the spoils with a late, unconverted try 19-26 but this was quickly answered with one from Harlow 26-26 and both teams then found themselves 26 points apiece with minutes left on the clock.

A handling error inside the Chelmsford twenty-two gave Harlow Hooker, Mitch Hodgkinson, a sniff of a chance and he pounced, dribbling the ball through to the line and diving down to score. 31-26 and two minutes left on the clock.

The last two minutes seemed never-ending as Chelmsford threw themselves into the attack time and again but all their efforts were to no avail as the ball was eventually turned over and Alfie Clark gratefully kicked the ball out of play. Final score 31-26 to Harlow.

The character and commitment shown by this group of players over the second half of the season has been extraordinary. Prior to the Christmas break they were sitting bottom of the league after lack of numbers had stripped the squad down to bare bones and beyond. Since the break the story has changed, winning all but one of their fixtures and forcing their way up to fifth place in the league. Saturday was a fair reward for their post-christmas efforts.

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