Thurrock overturn the challenge of ambitious Harlow
By Ralph Henderson - Nub News contributor
6th Nov 2023 | Rugby
Harlow 13, Thurrock 25
WITH the country in the grip of Storm Ciarán, Thurrock blew away title contenders Harlow at Latton Park on Saturday.
Harlow, founded in 1955, moved to their splendid new ground in 2017. Having gained promotion last season, they have gone from strength to strength and sat in the top three at the commencement of this fixture.
Over the years, Harlow have had some first rate scrum- halves including Welsh triallist, Gwilym Treharne, John Davies of Campion fame; Allan Price and Lew Hughes' college mate, Welsh International, Clive Shell!
The current incumbent, Ben Creasey is a fine player, and he gave Scott Chitty an interesting duel.
In difficult conditions there were mistakes aplenty and Thurrock slid back in the opening scrum exchanges.
The power of the Harlow pack, particularly No.8 Bradley Etherington and skipper Luke Bowering, were causing all sorts of problems early on. New wingers Dalton Carter and Jamie Smith were put under enormous pressure by Danny Smith and Creasey, but Chitty and Blake Burns were up for the fight and produced some prodigious kicking of their own.
The exceptional centre partnership of Henry Bird and Niall Clifford was back in harness as Burns prompted a series of midfield incursions into Harlow territory.
With fleet-footed Rhys Cotter returning to his best, Thurrock began to threaten, especially as Harlow conspired to recklessly squander midfield possession through ill-timed passes, without respect for underfoot conditions.
When keeping the game at close-quarters the home side prospered and both their tries emanated from set piece domination and driving mauls which lacerated the resistance.
Second Row Jack Elston and powerful Bradley Etherington were the beneficiaries.
Burns had managed to reduce the arrears with a couple of accurate penalties.
Although Thurrock had been somewhat confounded by the capacity of the Harlow tight forwards, Lawrence Brown, Anthony Catchpole and Dritan Loka began to neutralise the home power.
George Miles was prominent with some heavy-duty carrying manoeuvres.
Kodie Holloway and Jamie Orr started to "skate" over the treacherous surface with pace and precision, while Ben Timson tidied up lots of difficult situations.
Suddenly Caolán Watts-Adams burst into the game with some compelling footwork and good peripheral scanning which enabled the lock to release the ball at the optimum moment.
The former Campion student was showing up in the outside channel and, after a commanding drive, Jamie Smith seized the opportunity for a maiden try.
Some brilliant midfield play by the county centres was beginning to expose a weak underbelly and having "softened-up" the heart of the resistance, Burns chose the perfect moment to breach the line with a beautiful feint and dummy.
Having infiltrated the Harlow 22, Burns found the ultimate plunderer, Ben Timson, on his shoulder to complete a fine try. Burns added the extras.
This stung Harlow into action. With Thurrock ringing the changes, Tom Wileman and Harry Clarke added their muscular physicality to the contest, with Angus Poole soon into the ensuing battle.
With the Oakfielders demonstrating real passion to hold their lead, Harlow began to warm to the occasion. David Archer was at the kernel of a wave of attacks and, after a series of penalties, Luke Bowering called up Liam Batty to kick a penalty leaving the score at 13- 18 with Thurrock kicking off for the last play.
Harlow's plan was to regain possession and march down to the Thurrock line for the coup de grace!
Unfortunately, nobody had informed Thurrock of the script.
Solid defence brought a turnover and the ball shot out to Rhys Cotter. With everyone expecting the full- back to put the ball out of play to end the game, the opportunist sneaked over in clandestine fashion for Thurrock to secure a thoroughly deserved victory against one of the season's form teams.
This weekend sees the visit of arch rivals Brentwood to Oakfield where Thurrock will want to build on this upturn of form and fortune and record a first home league win.