Date: Sat 18th Mar 2023
On a gloomy afternoon on the road Harlow fended off a hard working Braintree side by 36 -6. With pre match rain forcing the game from the clubhouse pitch, the Redmen negotiated tricky conditions to take a well-deserved victory. On a playing surface that was hard on lungs and legs, Harlow were indebted to their pack who took a stranglehold on the game early doors and never relinquished their grip.
It was apparent from the off that this was to be a keenly contested affair as the hosts displayed creditable organisation and commitment allied with a willingness to run the ball when given the opportunity. From the earliest of stages, it became quite apparent that conditions would dictate how this game would unfold and Harlow adapted well using their big ball carriers to dent the Braintree defence. Although this looked to be a forward oriented match it took a back to start the train of events that led to the visitors first score, centre Scott Whitby made an incisive run from halfway to the Braintree twenty two before being shackled however a breakdown infringement gave Harlow a penalty that Danny Smith put into touch about 7 metres out. With the ball secured, a catch and drive ensued that saw Tom Garner reward the effort with the five which Smith bettered with the extras.
Braintree rallied and got on the board with a penalty awarded for a high tackle but it was the visitors who got the next try, centre Morgan Davies fielded a drop out before passing to Ben Creasey who took the ball on into the twenty two, from the ruck the ball came to number eight Brad Etherington who like an out of control truck cleared all traffic before him to crash over from twenty metres. Smith did well to dispatch the mud covered ball between the uprights to add the conversion.
Harlow with second rowers Jack Elston and Sam Bucknall combining well in the engine room, now had total ascendancy at scrummage which led to their third try, a five-metre scrum was pushed solidly backward which allowed Etherington to bulldoze over for his second. Braintree put over another three pointer before the half time break, reminding the visitors that they still had a game on their hands.
With the rain returned both sides set to it again after the break, Braintree now had a problem as Harlow’s scrum dominance saw the home ball under constant pressure and a couple of against the head set pieces contributed to red eight driving the home pack to within a whisker of the try line, a quick recycle found prop Louis Castiglione continuing his hot scoring streak as he barged over from close range to wrap up the try bonus point.
Not to be outdone the backs chipped in with the fifth try, although they would be the first to admit that this was created by the efforts of their forwards who again with a massive shove at scrum time garnered a penalty, with the advantage Smith put in a fantastic cross kick which Harry Masini bagged before being tackled but it mattered not as Rob Macpherson Smith was on hand to step and score.
With the game coming to a close it was ground hog day for the final try of the match as another scrum inched its way to the home line, winger Joel Drake kept the wide defence busy giving Etherington the opportunity to pile over for the converted score and his second hat trick in two games.
Great performance by the boys against a side that had literally tackled for all they were worth, would be remiss not to mention the efforts of the front row union of Castiglione, Christy, Clark and Di Dio, didn’t matter which combination they were on the money, also flanker Will Garner who got through a huge amount of work as always.