One of the great things about covering rugby at independent schools is the magnificent settings in which fixtures take place, Haileybury is one such place.
Unfortunately for the home side they were unable to capitalise on the early mental gain that such a formidable surround brings as they fell to a 21-3 defeat to Felsted in utterly miserable conditions.
The game began in relatively benign conditions following an earlier downpour and almost straight from the kick off Haileybury won themselves a penalty, which was ably landed by their excellent full back.
It was to be the last penalty that, from memory at least, was to be kicked in any form by Haileybury as they endeavoured to play a brand of high intensity rugby with ball in hand being the absolute cornerstone to their work. Quick taps were the order of the day, despite field position or conditions.
Felsted by contrast were focussing far more on field position and through the wonderful play of Max Malins, who controlled the game brilliantly at fly half, they soon started to make inroads into the Haileybury 22. Clearly they were using the experience that they gained on their run to the U18 Schools Vase competition final last year to great effect.
Sure enough the pressure soon told, and fittingly it was Malins who scored the try, jinking and weaving from the edge of the 22 to croos under the posts before converting his own score to give Felsted a 7-3 lead.
What Haileyburyâ€™s adventurous style of play did mean though was that there were some thrilling breaks littered throughout the game, perhaps no one more so than their outstanding inside centre who looks a terrific player, particularly when running at his opponents.
However even one wonder break from him could not hold back Felsted who scored a delightful second try to round of a superb opening quarter of the game. Shifting the ball wide at pace, their full back came flying into the line and then produced a wonderfully delicate chip, just evading the fingertips of the onrushing defence, before re-gathering and scoring â€“ it was superb. Malins added the extras to make it 14-3.
Haileybury then began to produce their best from of the match with their loosehead and left wing making particularly impressive efforts before a succession of five metre scrums really should have yielded points, though Felstedâ€™s organised defence must be praised.
As it was though Felsted held out and following a couple of penalties they managed to progress all the way from their own 22 into the opposition 22 where they crossed the whitewash through some outstanding forward power, only to drop the ball over the line.
Thrillingly for the away support though Felsted won a free kick from the resultant scrum, which they used to fantastic effect, sending their tighthead crashing over in the corner. Malins added a tough conversion to give the away side a 21-3 lead, a lead that they carried through to the half time break.
Unfortunately half time was to prove to be the end of the game as a contest as the heavens opened turning the ball into a bar of soap, and the game into a stop start affair with very little flow or pattern to it.
Both sides did make some occasional exciting kick returns, however in such difficult conditions none ever managed to amount to anything, leaving the final score 21-3 to Felsted, as it was at half time.
Felsted were the deserved winners, such was the clinical style of their play and their excellent organisation, however Haileybury showed that despite the result they are developing a style of play under Director of Rugby Michael Owen that will produce some thrilling rugby once everyone is comfortable with it, the talent is certainly there.
Final Score: Haileybury 3-21 Felsted