Rugby: Harlow’s Under 18s show great attitude against top side Fullerians
General / Mon 20th Nov 2023 at 12:44pm
DEPRIVED of the opportunity to take on Ipswich in the cup, with the Suffolk XV ceding the game during the week, Harlow instead hosted Watford-based Fullerians RFC in a hastily-arranged friendly match.
The two sides warmed up as the weather deteriorated, with the wind picking up and the skies looking threatening, but both sets of players coped well with challenging conditions.
Harlow opened strongly, pushing Fullerians back into their own 22 for much of the first 10 minutes of the game. But they were unable to break through, stymied by spirited defending and the lack of a killer final pass. That was to be the theme for much of the afternoon.
Repelling the early threat encouraged Fullerians, who won two penalties in Harlow’s half – not entirely to the crowd’s pleasure – driving through on the second opportunity to open the scoring.
The try was subsequently converted by Fullerians’ kicker, who impressed all afternoon.
The success emboldened the Watford team, who quickly backed it up with a second try, with a well-worked back line move culminating in a score in the corner. A third try, this time a long-range effort, followed soon after, giving Fullerians a 19-0 lead.
Harlow’s heads did not go down, however. Strong running from Charlotte, Josie and Grace saw the home side repeatedly get over the gain line, and they were unlucky not to be rewarded with points.
A period of sustained pressure at the end of the half saw Fullerians relived to hear the referee’s whistle without conceding.
The beginning of the second half saw Harlow pick up where they had left off. This time, both Tilly and Lilly came close, but Fullerians’ last-ditch defending showed their resilience. Disappointingly, they were then able to regain momentum, scoring a runaway try under the posts, which was converted for a 26-0 lead.
Harlow were rocked but continued to fight their corner – not least in the rucks and mauls, where the aggression of Fullerians was met with a steely response.
Harlow backed each other up in the face of some off-the-ball challenges that the referee was not always quick to spot.
Soon, however, Fullerians came again, winning another close-range penalty that they were able to convert. That took the score to 31-0, which didn’t fairly represent the competitiveness of the game, but Fullerians’ killer instinct was proving to be the difference between the two sides.
Something of a turning point came at the mid-point of the second half, with the referee finally losing patience with some of the Fullerians’ backs’ ill-discipline.
Awarded a penalty for Fullerians’ foul play in the ruck, Harlow secured a further advantage as the referee brandished a yellow card to the opposition’s centre, who had shared her views about the quality of the official’s decision-making with rather too much volume.
Harlow quickly sought to capitalise on their numerical edge. Martha and Tilly both came close, before Kayleigh made strong ground; she was tackled just short, but Lily was on-hand to get Harlow over the line.
At 31-5, could there be a sustained fight back? Sadly, it wasn’t to be. To their credit, Fullerians came back strongly, scoring two late tries, one converted, to take the final score to 43-5. As the skies darkened, the two sides congratulated each other, putting the sometimes testy exchanges of the match behind them.
Defeat for Harlow, then, but the final score didn’t tell the full story.
This was certainly a tough match against well-drilled opposition that featured a couple of strong runners and a competitive pack. But Harlow played well and were unlucky not to register a larger total on the scoreboard.
Nevertheless, the match ended a two-game winning streak – and it was sad not to see victory on the first home outing for the new club kit.
The team wore their colours with pride.
It should also be noted that Harlow continue to be dogged by injuries, with long-time absentees Camille and Jess joined on the sidelines this week by Abby, who sustained a broken toe in last week’s win at Braintree.
Harlow’s outstanding team spirit was again in evidence. Camille’s presence on the touchline every week despite her broken arm has been much appreciated, while Abby’s injury did not prevent her from bringing chocolate brownies.
Down but not out. And a big shout out to Harlow’s management and coaches who continue to offer fantastic support to an impressive bunch of rugby players who will get better results in matches to come.
This week’s player of the match trophy went to Lily, a much-deserved award marred only by the coaches’ failure to remember the Haribo’s normally handed out in these circumstances.
That could have seen any of them awarded donkey of the week, but Tilly claimed the prize following an mis-labelling of the hands incident last week – learn your left and right Tilly.
Well done girls!!!! Keep your heads up you make us proud!
What a team!