Hadleigh make the step up to the Plate in extra-time

Suffolk Plate Final.  Haverhill v Hadleigh. ''Action from the Suffolk Plate Final between Haverhill and Hadleigh.
Suffolk Plate Final. Haverhill v Hadleigh. ''Action from the Suffolk Plate Final between Haverhill and Hadleigh.

Hadleigh picked themselves up late in the second half to force extra-time and then scored 22 unanswered points against Haverhill to lift the Suffolk Plate after winning 39-17.

Coach Adam Miles, whose main target is promotion from Eastern Counties Division Two, said the final had been a ‘harrowing experience’.

Hadleigh scored an early try, but gradually the hosts took over to lead 12-5 at the interval and 17-5 with just 10 minutes to play.

But some astute substitutions saw Hadleigh score two tries late in the game to send the final into extra-time.

“I was pulling my hair out,” said Miles. “I was not pleased with the first 70 minutes. But then we showed our mettle.”

Suffolk Plate success means part one of the club’s ambitions for this season has been completed.

“The league is what matters,” said Miles. “Every game is a five-pointer and we have to keep winning.”

In the early exchanges, Haverhill’s large powerful forwards were outscrimmaging Hadleigh, but sound kicking defensive play enabled Hadleigh to hold out.

Centre Jackson and fly-half Kelly were both accurate and long in their kicking and, after 12 minutes, a telling kick down the right wing chased and gathered by flanker Englebrecht who, supported by winger Crisp, crossed the line for a 5-0 lead.

Haverhill came back strongly and continuing pressure forced Hadleigh to concede a series of penalties, which saw the hosts hold a 12-5 interval lead.

The second half followed the same pattern with Haverhill’s forwards again winning the power play and they drove over to lead 17-5.

But, as the game progressed, the mobility of their forwards and the speed of their backline enabled Hadleigh to open up the game to suit their style of play.

Haverhill, with one man in the sin bin, were tiring and a loose pass was intercepted by Hadleigh’s tireless wing forward Kerr to score a try in the corner, converted by Kelly.

The Hadleigh backs were becoming more prominent in the game in the late stages.

Full-back O’Hallorhan, took off on one of his long runs to outpace the Haverhill backline and score the match-saving try.

Haverhill were stunned by the Hadleigh fightback and were noticeably less effective in extra-time.

Two minutes in, Kelly received a quick ball from Jackson to score, and then convert, his own try.

By the end of extra-time, Hadleigh had scored three more tries through Clements, Milton, and O’Hallorhan to take the trophy.

The Plate victory puts Hadleigh into quarter-finals of the Suffolk Cup, where they will meet Sudbury at Whittome Field on December 21.