Promotion hopes hit as Hampstead limp to Harpenden loss

Harpenden just edged a close-fought contest at home to Hampstead

Harpenden just edged a close-fought contest at home to Hampstead - Credit: Archant

A final flourish from Hampstead came too late to prevent a 16-11 defeat at Harpenden – a result which could spell the end of their promotion hopes.

The hosts had established a 10-point lead going into the final 20 minutes and it forced the Hampstead Heath-based rugby club onto the offensive.

Alex Brooks did cross the line with a little under three minutes to go but there was to be no late twist.

Ed Doe kicked two other penalties for Hampstead.

With both Old Haberdashers and HAC winning comfortably, the defeat leaves Hampstead in third in London North West Two and five points adrift of second.

Belsize Park close the gap in fourth while Harpenden remain fifth.

In truth there was little between the two teams at a sunny Redbourn Lane in what was a brutal contest.

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With extremely hard hits coming in from both sides, knocks were expected but the visitors were the ones with the most battered bodies.

Their three replacements were all on the field within 30 minutes, with their influential skipper Dan Dumoline and Pete Wood two of the men who had to go off.

Tom Stagg kicked Harpenden into an early lead which was cancelled out by the first of Doe’s penalties.

Hampstead almost engineered an overlap inside the hosts’ 22 shortly after but that was the start of the opening try. Remarkably though it came from Harpenden.

A knock-on by the men in maroon was ran all the way back to the five-metre line.

And a fine catch and drive from the ensuing line-out saw Pete Sims the one to emerge with the ball.

Doe kicked a second penalty to reduce the gap before half-time but after a bright opening to the second period by the visitors, Harpenden stretched their lead through another Stagg penalty.

Max Baggio almost slalomed his way in but a scrum was their only reward when most in the home crowd thought a penalty try should have been awarded.

It didn’t matter as another catch and drive saw almost the whole team join in the push. Luke Barber didn’t however and it was he who made the short dash over the line.

That stung Hampstead into action and only firm defence held them out.

Doe missed a kick from in front of the posts but the pressure kept coming and Brooks got onto the end of a kick ahead to bring them within five.

But time was the enemy and despite winning the ball back, the clock ran down before they could finish off the comeback.

Hampstead now have two weeks off to rest the wounded before they host Harrow on March 4.