Watford RFC became the first side to inflict defeat on runaway Herts/Middlesex 3 leaders London French as they clinched a 20-17 victory.

Both teams had been short of match action after a number of postponements and the early exchanges were cagey.

The home side soon gained territory and were only denied a score by some impressive London French defending.

Watford’s pressure eventually told though. A typically dominant drive from the pack set up quick ball, Richard Yates collected an awkward pass to round his opposite number and score from close range. The conversion was missed but the hosts opened up a 5-0 advantage.

French responded well and posted their first points through a penalty after Watford were judged to have strayed offside at a ruck.

Tempers began to fray between the two promotion chasers and the final ten minutes of the first half were scrappy and ill disciplined.

However, Watford remained patient and were rewarded with a second try shortly before the interval.

A charge up the pitch by Andy Lee was halted inside the opposition 22. He offloaded to lock Jon McClennon who finished with aplomb in the corner. The extras were added and Watford were 12-5 up at the break.

The second half was an even contest. Both sides found themselves in promising attacking positions but were unable to convert pressure into points. Watford’s scrum was dominant and the visiting back line was starved of quality ball.

But London French did reduce the deficit as a driving maul crossed the whitewash. The French fly half struck a magnificent conversion, meaning Watford’s lead was reduced to two points.

Watford cranked up their pressure and prop JR Greyling received the ball and sprinted 40 metres before touching down.

Now only one try away from securing a winning bonus point, the home side pushed hard and enjoyed an extended period of possession.

However, Watford over extended themselves and a pass was intercepted which allowed French to score a breakaway try, which was converted.

The score was level at 17-17 with ten minutes to go and a number of scuffles broke out across the pitch.

It was Watford who kept their cool and a penalty was successful scored by Tom McGee to secure a fine victory in their promotion bid.