Belsize Park captain announces retirement after injury in title showdown against Fullerians
- Credit: Archant
Belsize Park captain Tom House has announced his retirement after suffering a season-ending injury in Saturday’s top-of-the-table clash against Fullerians.
The 31-year-old broke his hand in the fifth minute of the promotion showdown as Belsize battled back from 13-3 down at half-time to equalise late on and secure an 18-18 draw in London North-West Division Three.
Despite that comeback, Belsize dropped from second to third place in the table and that leaves them outside the two promotion spots ahead of their penultimate game of the season, away at local rivals UCS Old Boys on Saturday.
House was sidelined in the opening exchanges, breaking two metacarpals in his hand in a ruck, and he told Ham&High Sport: “I’ll definitely be out until the end of the season so that will be me retired.
“I’m the old man of the team as it is. I was planning to hang my boots up at the end of the season. I’ve been playing since I was nine so that’s 22 years, and I’ve been at Belsize Park for the last four seasons.
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“It’s definitely not the way I wanted it to end, but if we get promoted then I’ll be very happy.”
Saturday’s game was crucial for both sides as they battled for top spot, and there was a cagey start to the contest.
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Belsize Park were playing into a strong wind in the first half, but they took the lead in the third minute with their first foray into opposition territory as Jeremy Burton kicked a penalty from 40 metres out.
House then left the fray and Fullerians took advantage of the wind to score a penalty, a converted try and another penalty to take a 13-3 lead into the break.
But Belsize had the benefit of the elements in the second period and, although they lost Ollie Barcock to a neck injury, they hit back as Will Allen scorched down the left wing and dotted down in the corner.
Burton missed his difficult conversion from the touchline but slotted over a penalty to narrow the gap to 13-11.
The hosts continued to dominate possession, but Fullerians won a handful of penalties and put some phases together before rumbling over the line through their forwards to go 18-11 up.
Time was ticking away but the visitors had left gaps around the ruck throughout the match – something Richard Turner had exploited effectively in the first half. And, with two minutes left, Burton spotted a gap and went through to score from 30 metres out before adding the conversion to secure a draw.
“We were very confident going into the game,” said House. “We had almost a full-strength side to pick from and even at half-time, 10 points down, we felt we could still win the game.
“We lost Ollie to injury and I went off, which was disappointing. It meant the line-out, which is usually one of our strongest areas, became a bit scruffy. But I thought Richard Wilson did a really good job at assuming the leadership and George Hazlett rallied the forwards.
“We were very disappointed with the result but Fullerians were really good in the second half. They were really good at the basics, at the breakdown and were very organised, and they played to their strengths really well.
“On reflection it was probably a fair result but we’re just disappointed we didn’t play a bit better, and we were a bit unlucky with the injures that we picked up.”
Meanwhile, Welwyn won 77-10 away against Hackney to go level with Belsize Park on points but crucially move above them in the table due to their one extra win.
With the top two teams being promoted, the margins are extremely tight with just two games to go and a single bonus point could be decisive.
House said: “Welwyn have got a tougher game than us on Saturday. They’re playing against Stevenage, who will fancy their chances after winning away at Fullerians a few weeks ago.
“Stevenage are a tough side to play against and we’re playing against UCS Old Boys [who lie 10th in the table]. We’ll be confident we can go there and get a win and a bonus point. I suppose our fate is now in Welwyn’s lap.
“Sam Bennett, our openside flanker, went to school at UCS so he’s really excited about going up there this weekend.
“There’s not really a rivalry between the clubs because we’ve only played them once so far. It’s not like Hackney, who we’ve been playing for years – but if we don’t go up then it probably will become a local rivalry.”