Welwyn have victory snatched away by St Albans as competitive rugby returns

Welwyn had victory snatched away inside the final few minutes by St Albans.

Welwyn had victory snatched away inside the final few minutes by St Albans. - Credit: KARYN HADDON

The long-awaited return of competitive league rugby brought a good-sized crowd to Hobbs Way - but the Welwyn faithful were left disappointed with a last-gasp defeat against St Albans.

Only three points separated the teams at the final whistle of the Division Three North West contest, the well-organised visitors kicking a penalty with almost the final touch to claim the 10-7 victory.

Welwyn handed debuts to five over the course of the afternoon - hooker Josh Walkey, second row Andrew Le Baigue, prop Jed Hunter, centre Ali Cooper and utility-back Fin Sutherland.

Conditions were almost perfect too but both sides struggled to put phases together in an unremarkable and scoreless first half.

The home side emptied their bench in the second half in the hopes of kick-starting their promotion hopes with Joe Burns, Rob Picken and Sutherland all coming on.

And they finally broke the deadlock on the hour.

The ball was moved wide and skipper Josh Milton put last year’s captain Adam Harcourt into space to run in unopposed.

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Fly half, Chris Kemp added the extras to give them a 7-0 lead and they created several more opportunities which crucially went begging.

And that inability to add a second score came back to haunt them as their discipline let them down and they conceded a penalty.

St Albans gratefully kicked that to the corner and a well-executed catch and drive resulted in a try out wide.

Harry Trude delivered the second knock to Welwyn's hopes with his well-struck effort bouncing over the bar off the far upright and he was to prove the matchwinner.

With time virtually up, one final attack from the visitors was halted right in front of the posts by a dangerous tackle and Trude made no mistake with the ensuing penalty.

A Welwyn spokesman said: "Both sides will be pleased to have got their first league match for 18 months under their belts and results from elsewhere in the league indicate that this could be an eventful season for both of us."

Datchworth endured a difficult start as they fell to a 44-5 loss in London Two North West at home to HAC, relegated from the level above in the previously completed campaign.

Hatfield QE did start with a win, beating Harpenden 24-19 in Herts Middlesex Merit Table Three.

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