Welwyn win Herts Presidents’ Tankard
PUBLISHED: 14:25 05 May 2011 | UPDATED: 14:28 05 May 2011
WITH a tremendous display of pace and power Welwyn overwhelmed Harpenden to win the Herts Presidents’ Tankard at the neutral venue of the Old Verulamians’ ground on Saturday.
Harpenden kicked off with the slight slope in their favour. Welwyn immediately ran the ball back at their opponents but despite the early pressure Harpenden kicked themselves into the Welwyn half.
At a ruck on the 22 Welwyn were adjudged to have crept forward and Harpenden took an early lead with a well-taken penalty.
Welwyn drove down the field and were awarded a penalty for Harpenden not releasing wide out near the 22. But despite a good strike from Gareth Hughes the troublesome wind took the ball wide.
Welwyn were clearly in no mood to dwell on failure and the ever alert Simon Banks snaffled the ball and a quick transfer to Gareth Hughes saw the fly half put Kyle Birkin into a half gap.
A superbly timed pass to winger Ben Ofori put him on the outside of his man.
Grabbing the opportunity the flying winger easily outpaced the cover defence with a stirring 40 metre run to score wide out. Again the troublesome wind denied the conversion but Welwyn were in the lead.
Nearing half-time, Welwyn were once again pressing in the Harpenden half with a great run from Birkin and a tremendous drive by the Welwyn forwards when a mishandling error handed the ball to Harpenden who immediately kicked long, the ball rolling into touch near the Welwyn line.
From the lineout Welwyn were penalised and a quickly taken penalty and drive from the alert scrum half saw Harpenden snatch the lead back with a converted try.
Just before half-time an incisive run by Wayne Child quickly supported by Owen Hopley saw Welwyn once more on the front foot but denied a score by the half-time whistle.
Playing with the slight slope but with an ever increasing wind in their faces, Welwyn showed their intentions early in the second half with a series of rolling mauls which took play deep into the opposition half.
On the 22 a well-worked lineout from Rob James transferred the ball to an irresistible rolling maul and Welwyn went over to equalise with a try from Rob Picken. The conversion was held up by the wind inches short but, although the scores were equal, Welwyn were beginning to look dominant.
Form the kick-off a Welwyn infringement at a ruck handed a simple penalty chance to Harpenden who slotted it to retake the lead.
This seemed to spur Welwyn on to drive back down the field. Child, with a fine burst, put Welwyn on the front foot and a long kick from full back Pat Lynch took play close to the Harpenden line.
Harpenden had no answer to the almost complete lineout dominance of the Welwyn trio of Hopley, James and Rapley.
A rapidly moving rolling maul round the front of the lineout saw Hopley cross the line only to be denied by a scrambled defence which bundled the flanker into touch in goal.
Welwyn were back in the try scoring zone with a tremendous shove from the forwards and a push over try by the ever-present Rob Picken to take the lead.
From another dominant scrum, Hopley picked up and with a deft pop pass put Wells into a gap. The speedy back rower made good ground before transferring to Hughes and on to Child who made a clean break to put Birkin in under the sticks.
The converted try put Welwyn into a 22-13 lead.
Harpenden were struggling to cope with the powerful Welwyn backs. With Banks now taking the ball against the head the Harpenden pack were demolished in a series of scrums. From a Welwyn scrum, Hughes speculatively kicked ahead.
Although the defence appeared to have the kick covered, the speedy Ben Ofori with a spectacular leap jumped to take the ball and speed through for a splendid try. Pat Lynch added the extra points to put the victory beyond doubt.