Essex League division 1A

HARWICH narrowly defeated Mersea Island at Low Road on Saturday.

A tough battle was expected, with the sides fifth and third respectively in the league table.

The early exchanges proved this forecast to be correct, with both sets of forwards ripping into each other from the off.

The backs imposed themselves at every opportunity, running the ball hard at their opposition.

These initial forays were defended well, with both teams' defences standing up to their tasks, and this set the tone for the game.

After the first quarter of an hour, Harwich, with the wind behind them, were able to gain and hold onto some territorial advantage.

The Mersea forwards, in their enthusiasm to repel the hosts, infringed at a ruck, giving Harwich the opportunity to take the lead.

Full-back Sam Male stepped up and kicked the three points in blustery conditions.

The slender lead was like nectar to the Harwich forwards, as they began to dominate both the scrums and lineouts.

The home side had a sustained period of pressure in the Mersea 22-metre area.

Despite some fantastic defence from the visitors, it was Harwich's forwards that managed to overpower this defensive effort with open-side wing forward Gareth Sanders-Crook squeezing over for the five-pointer.

With the wind swirling, the conversion was missed by Male.

The home side continued to pressure the opposition but at times ‘white line fever’ took over, rather than playing to the structure, which saw the Mersea defence win these exchanges and half-time arrived with Harwich leading 8-0.

The second half started where the first left off, with the Harwich forwards continuing to dominate the set piece.

The windy conditions, however, favoured the away team and they used the conditions to dominate territory, putting Harwich under increasing pressure.

With a good break by the Mersea centre, the opposition swept into the hosts' 22 and were soon celebrating a good try scored near to the posts.

The conversion was simple, bringing them back into the game at 8-7.

Harwich responded to this setback effectively, keeping to their structure and gaining some field position.

Keeping hold of the ball and making some inroads, the forwards again battled into opposition territory.

Under pressure, Mersea's forwards gave away a penalty just outside the 22-metre area.

Sam Male stepped up to take the penalty.

Keeping the ball low and using the wind to assist, he slotted the ball over for the three points.

The last quarter of the game belonged to the fantastic defensive effort made by the home team.

Every player stepped up to repel everything the opposition threw at them.

Even with winger Chuck Heeney being sinbinned with five minutes to go for lying on the ball at a ruck, leaving 14 players to see out the final few minutes, Harwich showed wonderful determination and intensity to prevent Mersea scoring.

Prop and pack leader Paul Sewell said: “It was a good defensive effort by the lads, which we will need to show again next week."

The win leaves Harwich in fifth place but, with Writtle having an away walkover, Mersea dropped to fourth on the same points as the Low Road side.

Tomorrow, Harwich travel to league leaders Stanford-le-Hope.