High flying Harrow were made to work hard for a 27-15 win over Haileybury on Wednesday evening at Allianz Park.
The North West Londoners currently sit at the top of the Daily Mail Trophy table, with Haileybury a little further behind in 12th after both have enjoyed strong starts to the campaign.
It was Harrow who got off to a strong start in this fixture though, scoring after just two minutes as they raced to a 20-3 lead after just 23 minutes.
It was that fast start that really made the difference, from that point Haileybury competed strongly, and had some dominant patches in the second half, however Harrow’s greater early composure and accuracy helped them to a crucial dominant early lead.
It was the sort of occasion though where the result was not the only important aspect, this was a great occasion for both schools to play on Saracens’ brilliant 4G surface in a stadium with a decent crowd. It felt special, and it was. Win or lose, these are the games that these players will remember for the rest of their lives.
Harrow may well remember this particular one a little more fondly though, skipper Reuen Bird-Tulloch in particular, who opened the scoring on his home Academy ground after just two minutes with a smart finish from close range after some great work from his forward pack.
Seven minutes later his side crossed again after some more good work from the pack, with openside Sean Reffell in particular gaining some crucial yards before his scrum half crossed for a 10-0 lead.
Haileybury then stemmed the flow a little with a penalty from Dawes, but Harrow were quickly back on the attack and beginning to stretch the width on their play too.
That soon paid off with a glorious try after 21 minutes as they battered away with their forwards on the right hand side before some wonderful handling from Bird-Tulloch and his fly half released their pacey full back to score on the left wing. It was beautiful rugby, and there was little that Haileybury could do to defend it after Harrow had forced them narrow.
Two minutes later Harrow produced what can only be described as absolute carbon copy of that score, the same handling, the same players, the same finisher, it was quite remarkable to witness, and stretched their advantage to 20-3 after just 23 minutes.
Harrow were in rampant form, and showing just why they are considered so good this season, but Haileybury rallied impressively, stemming the tide a little, and then turning it into pressure of their own, so much so that Harrow were forced to concede a yellow card as the half drew to a close.
They took advantage of that man advantage as the second half kicked off, scoring a lovely try through their left winger Kayode Ariyo. The conversion drifted wide, but the momentum shift was confirmed as the gap narrowed to 20-8 and Haileybury began to exert some real pressure.
Harrow responded well though, slowing the game down as the two side then spent much of the rest of the game fighting it out between the two 22s before the game exploded into life again with just five minutes left.
Haileybury found themselves deep in Harrow territory and putting the pressure on in a big way. It seemed a matter of time until the dam finally burst, and with just three minutes left it finally did as the Haileybury scrum half Bryn McCall wriggled his way over from close range. Dawes converted, putting his side just 5 points behind with a couple of minutes left on the clock.
The comeback was on for Haileybury, and the feeling around the ground was that the momentum was with them. Harrow are a classy outfit though, and they composed themselves brilliantly, working their way into Haileybury territory before scoring a stunning try through the tireless Reffell to seal the game in the final play.
It was heartbreaking for Haileybury, but a sign of the class and calmness of this Harrow group that when the pressure came on they were able to respond with a slick try to kill the game off at the death.
Few will come much closer to beating Harrow this season, they look a side capable of some special achievements this season, for Haileybury though this must be remembered as a great occasion, and a superb fighting display against a top team.
Full Time: Haileybury 15-27 Harrow.