Second half collapse sees defending champions Welwyn miss out on final spot

PUBLISHED: 12:06 03 March 2016 | UPDATED: 12:06 03 March 2016

Robert Picken gets over the gain line after a strong Welwyn maul

Robert Picken gets over the gain line after a strong Welwyn maul

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Defending Herts Presidents Tankard champions Welwyn threw away a chance of back-to-back finals with a lacklustre second-half showing at home to their London 3NW guests on Saturday.

Jon Chinn’s men led 22-5 at the break but completely took their eye off the ball in the second period, allowing Stevenage to level, before notching the critical score in the final play of a pulsating match.

Welwyn started slowly, with the first 10 minutes strewn with errors as both sides made elementary mistakes.

Rob Picken eventually opened the scoring, with his 102nd first-team try, off a simple catch and drive from a five-metre line-out on 12 minutes.

Six minutes later Picken added to the lead when he picked up from the base of the scrum and drove over the line. Grehan missed both conversions and Welwyn led 10-0.

After 33 minutes, Muhunthan Harinath was yellow-carded for being offside as Welwyn defended in their own 22m and Stevenage immediately took advantage as Ian Crompton went over the line.

A minute later the sides were evenly numbered as the referee sin-binned a Stevenage player for a kick to the head at a ruck.

With half-time approaching, the home side increased their lead when Picken again broke from a scrum and fed the supporting Christian Sloan to take the score to 17-5.

From the kick-off Welwyn recycled the ball well and Picken made a 40m break down the centre of the field before offloading to the industrious Luke Dillinger who raced for the line. With only the full-back to beat, he squared to Yourgos Alexander who crossed in the corner for their 17-point half-time lead.

Within three minutes of the second half starting, Picken scored his third try of the day as Welwyn put several phases of attack together, leaving the No.8 to cross from two metres.

Welwyn continued to play with a lack of energy and tempo and Stevenage claimed more of a foothold in the game, taking control of the breakdown where Welwyn seemed to be able to do nothing right.

The hosts gave away seven consecutive penalties and Stevenage took advantage, scoring two tries to cut the deficit to 27-17 10 minutes into the second half.

Picken then scored his fourth try of the game, again driving away from the base of a dominant scrum, Grehan converted and Welwyn led 34-17 with 25 minutes of the game remaining.

Stevenage responded with further tries in the 58th and 63rd minutes as Welwyn’s defence crumbled and the gap was narrowed to seven points.

Grehan then extended the lead with a 30m penalty in front of the posts to make the score 37-27 with eight minutes remaining.

Stevenage continued to attack while Welwyn made errors, enabling Stevenage to score on 77 minutes to narrow the gap to four points.

Finally, with the last play of the game, Stevenage scored their seventh try of the game to take the lead for the first, but most crucial, time.

Welwyn return to London 2NW action this Saturday with a must-not-lose clash at leaders Fullerians. Saturday.

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