Agony for Hendon as final-day promotion hopes are dashed by champions’ first home defeat

Hendon captain Ger O'Donoghue. Pic: Paolo Minoli

Hendon captain Ger O'Donoghue. Pic: Paolo Minoli - Credit: Archant

Hendon put in their best performance of the season to win at Watford on Saturday, but they were denied promotion from Herts/Middlesex Division Two as their rivals London French triumphed away against the champions.

The Dons went into the final game level on points with second-placed French but trailing on match points difference.

There seemed to be every chance Hendon could grab the second spot as they travelled to sixth-placed Watford while French visited Hillingdon Abbots, who had comfortably won the title and all of their previous home games – including a big 62-14

victory over the Dons in March.

Hendon did their job, with Arwel Roberts and Cian Roberts both touching down twice and Adam Johnson and Mike Evans-Jones also getting over the whitewash to secure the victory against Watford, and a bonus point. Hines also kicked 17 points in a 47-18 victory.

However, the Dons were stunned to discover that French had won 35-13 at Hillingdon – with the crucial bonus point.

And, having inflicted both of the Abbots’ two defeats this campaign, French claimed second spot because they were 28 points better off on match points than Hendon in their 10 games against the other top six sides.

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Hendon captain Ger O’Donoghue told Ham&High Sport: “Initially, because we played so well and won, everyone was in good form – even when we found out we’d not been promoted. But on Sunday and Monday the realisation set in that we’ve got another season in Division Two, which isn’t the best.

“Just after our game had ended I found out we hadn’t made it, so I asked the coaching staff and president if I could break it to the players. The boys asked if I was joking but no, unfortunately not.

“As I said in the build-up to the game, Hillingdon really didn’t have anything to play for. The other side of it is that it’s a tough place to go and hats off to London French for going there and getting a bonus point, whatever the circumstances were. You’ve got to take your hats off to them, as disappointing as it is to do it.

“It’s been a good season as a whole, although there’s probably a slight bit of negativity at the end that we didn’t get promoted.

“But the last five games in that top-six group – barring the Hillingdon Abbots game – has probably set the bar quite high for next season, so hopefully that’s the boost we need to push that bit harder for it next year.”

O’Donoghue added: “I think Feltham and Haringey Rhinos might be coming down [into Division Two]. I don’t really know much about Haringey – I’ve never played them – but I’m surprised about Feltham because they were really strong last year when they got promoted in our league. They pretty much sailed through it.

“Maybe they’ve lost players since then. That’s always a danger at this level and it’s always a danger for ourselves as well. We hope we’ll be able to retain the majority of the players we have for next season, but it’s not always the case.”

Elsewhere, Hampstead finished their campaign in London North-West Division Two with a 44-19 defeat away at Harrow, leaving them ninth out of the 12 teams in the league in the final standings.