Leaders Belsize Park put hiccup behind them with victory over Old Millhillians
13:15 11 March 2014
Belsize Park returned to winning ways on Saturday and kept their title charge on track, maintaining their six-point lead at the top of Herts/Middlesex Division One with four games remaining.
BP’s staggering run of 14 consecutive victories was ended by a surprise defeat at Verulamians last weekend – but they put that hiccup behind them with a 38-10 home win over Old Millhillians.
Park started very strongly straight from the whistle, with strong running from the forwards creating space for Steven Eustace to scramble over the line for the first points.
Belsize put their visitors under immense pressure, and it told again as stand-in captain Freddie House crossed the whitewash out wide.
Open-side flanker Sam Bennett was on sparkling form, effervescent at the breakdown and tackling anything that moved. His relentless poaching over the ball and ferocious mauling was too much for the away team as they failed to mount any attacking threat.
Meanwhile, Nick Lewis provided a battering ram at inside centre, and his powerful runs overwhelmed a ragged Mill Hill back line, bringing him a fine try - and House then powered through a couple of defenders to touch down for a second time and rack up a fourth unanswered try.
Some ill discipline allowed OMs to get one back through their big ball carriers, but BP were back on the front foot after the restart and winger Corey Nash cut a great line infield to finish under the posts.
Belsize lost their man of the match Bennett to a bloody injury – and they then conceded a converted try before seeing replacement back row Olly Budd sinbinned for an infringement at the breakdown.
However, tireless defending - led by props David Brown and Adam French – ensured there was no comeback.
Coach Andy Barrington said: “We look to be getting back on form and, with players returning from injury, we should be in excellent shape as we approach these last few games.”
House added: “I was pleased with the performance as I feel we are getting to where we should be as a side. However, there are no easy games left for us and no margin for error.”
It was also a good day for Belsize Park’s third team, ‘The Bulls’, who crushed London French’s second string 42-12 to finish the season undefeated in the Middlesex Merit Table Division Five.
Swiss flyer Julien Hoefflin scored a hat-trick, while Bradley Stuart, Adam Eckersley-Waites, Talfan Evans, James Allen also touched down - and Kiwi No6 Matt Abbott was named the man of the match for his brutal defence.
The victory will be welcomed by key man James Cotter, who has been the driving force behind the success this season and is currently recovering from surgery having fractured his collarbone during Saturday’s game.
Belsize will enter the semi-finals of the play-offs on March 29 as the top-ranked team as they target a second successive championship and promotion.