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Syston Stunned by Pitch Perfect Purnell

Syston Stunned by Pitch Perfect Purnell

MH RUFC30 Apr - 23:04
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Harborough 1sts retained the County Cup in dramatic style with a 20-19 win over Syston RFC at Welford Road.

Wonderful second half display... a top class win.... the lads were terrific.
- Adey Neal - Club President

They say lightening doesn't strike twice, well someone should tell the Market Harborough 1st team because something very similar shook the Welford Road pitch on Tuesday evening.

Syston started the game with fast running and furious attacking play. Harborough were on the ropes and full back Finn Nockles punished Harborough for numerous indiscretions which led to a flurry of penalties. Over they went 3-0, 6-0 and finally 9-0, all sweetly struck! In the opening 25 minutes Harborough struggled to gain possession or field position and just couldn't break the hold Syston had over them.

The Syston forwards tore into Harborough and their backs sliced through the 'Black Cats' defensive line. On thirty minutes after concerted forward pressure, Syston's scrum half darted over to the left of the posts. The conversion went over and Syston led 16-0.

It looked like this could turn into a long evening for Harborough and although they matched their opponents up front, some speculative passing and knock-ons thwarted chances to put points on the board. Harborough struggled to exit their half and Syston continually pinned them back.

Tim Waterfield hit ruck and maul like a whirling dervish and led the team with an extraordinary display of offence and defence. Gradually Harborough began to move up through the gears, Tom Claffey seared down the left wing and Will Marriot went into 'roadrunner' mode. Monty Maule put Harry Durham through but the pass went to ground and still the scoreboard refused to put any numbers Harborough's way.

Josh Purnell had stepped into performing the kicking duties and from drop kick restarts to touch finders he was about to add converting his own try, to his repertoire. In the last seconds of the first half he scurried over from 15 metres out.

As the half time whistle blew, Harborough were back in the game, at 16-7 down, but it looked like a high mountain to climb.

The second half started well for Harborough and a more direct approach through their forwards saw Jack Burrows and Jack Digby crash into the Syston defenders time after time, but the blue wall held firm. The referee brought both captains together to warn the teams about head high tackles and finally a yellow card for Syston resulted in a penalty for Purnell, to close the score to 16-10.

Soon after Syston reestablished the 9 point lead (19-10) and again worked their way up the pitch. As time ticked on it began to look ominous for the Black Cats. However, there was a definite change in momentum up front where the Harborough forwards were growing in stature. The pack were gaining superiority at scrums, and the lineout under Henry Moss's tutelage began to win a steady supply of ball.

Harborough found some well earned field position from Purnell's box kicks. The ball started to suffer from altitude sickness, but it also brought some hesitancy in the Syston back line. Harborough pounced and although they fluffed a number of attacking moves, Sam Blades found himself in the middle of a marauding forward drive and crossed over to score. With the side line conversion from Purnell, Harborough were within two points 19-17. An exchange of yellow cards saw both sides down to 14 men and the gaps began to open up.

As the clock ran down, Harborough were at the wrong end of the pitch and one minor misdemeanor would allow Syston to take the game out to a four point advantage. With Purnell's kicking and sniping runs Harborough inched their way back into Syston's half. The game was moving to a nail biting finale.

With seconds left there was a knock on advantage to Harborough on the 22 metre line, which led to an all important attacking scrum. In the ball came, and the Harborough forwards shifted into 'bulldozzer' gear driving Syston back. The referees arm signalled penalty..... up stepped the outstanding Purnell to slot over the winning penalty. 19-20.

There were a few seconds left for the game to restart, Harborough gathered the ball and again up popped Josh Purnell who took the ball into contact. A penalty was awarded to Harborough and tension got the better of both sets of forwards. The referee calmly spoke to both captains, the penalty remained with Harborough, they dispatched the ball to touch to close out the game.

Syston will feel disappointed that they couldn't get this game over the line, they certainly put a monumental shift in but were rebuffed by determined Harborough defence. You need two teams to make entertaining spectacle and a salute to Syston for their part in the final.

For Harborough a remarkable second half of forward attacks combined with resolute defence from Harborough's young backs. The change to a forward focus paid dividends and the whole pack deserves praise for their tenacity. For a second year in a row Harborough had won the County Cup by a single point.

A big thank you to Joe, Chris and Rich our coaches who certainly played their part tonight. To players and supporters, savour the moment, they don't come along that often.

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