Harpenden began the new year as they finished the old one – by avenging a narrow early season defeat with a try bonus point victory. The win keeps them in sixth place in London One North, just five points off the runner-up slot. Initially, Colchester had the territorial advantage and capitalised when prop James Mitchell drove over the line for an unconverted try following a series of pick and drive phases. This proved to be the strongest part of their game resulting in two further tries later in the game. However, Harps proved to have the superior running game and hit back with a well worked try when flanker Jimmy Speirs got the ball away to scrum-half Adam Wilkinson who fed number eight Michael Goode to touch down. Full-back Tom Sweeney converted to put Harps into the lead. Unfortunately, Harpenden wing Dan James had to be replaced by Max Baggio, having picked up an injury, and then, following a great break by Wilkinson, the ball was taken on by Speirs who was taken down and landed on by another Colchester player at the same time, resulting in a chest injury, which forced him to leave the field. Harps reorganised with Fred Gulliford coming on at scrum-half, Wilkinson moving to the wing, Bobby Tane going from centre to flanker and Matt Deane moving to centre from wing.
Shortly afterwards, Mitchell got his second try for Colchester, which was converted. Then, following good work by the Harps pack, the ball was quickly fed along the backline for Wilkinson to score, converted by Sweeney. He put Harps further ahead when stand-off Harry Hutchins delayed a pass nicely, creating an opening for Sweeney to burst through. Unfortunately, he could not convert his own try. Colchester almost forced a potentially crucial score when they caught and drove from a lineout close to the line. They were able to roll around the side and get over the line, but Harps managed to hold the ball up and the referee blew for half-time, leaving Harps with a 19-12 lead. They stretched their lead after the break when Gulliford was forced to stretch to reach a pass, which was well in front of him, but he managed to regain his balance and get over the line. Sweeney converted. Shortly afterwards he was also successful with a penalty.
Colchester fought back with an unconverted try following a break down the left wing. Harps could have given themselves a greater cushion when Wilkinson could have scored, but by the time the ball reached him and he was stretching for the line, a cover tackle dislodged the ball from his hand.
Harps had an uncomfortable final 10 minutes, having been reduced to 14 men following a yellow card for Hutchins. Colchester got over the line, but again Harps held the ball up. From the resulting 5m scrum Colchester again employed their pick and drive game and despite a brave defensive effort by Harps, Mitchell went over for his third try of the afternoon.
However, time was running out for Colchester and Harps held on for a very satisfying victory.
Harps host Shelford this Saturday. Kick-off 3pm.
Harpenden: Sweeney, Deane, Tane, McClean, James; Hutchins, Wilkinson; McLoughlin, Sims, Beaton, Rolfe, Lacey, Preston, Speirs, Goode. Replacements: Baggio, Gulliford, McSporran.