Belsize Park captain: Our lead over Hackney counts for nothing in promotion clash

Colm McMahon finishes off a maul to score Belsize Park's fourth try against Grasshoppers and secure

Colm McMahon finishes off a maul to score Belsize Park's fourth try against Grasshoppers and secure a bonus point. Pic: Paolo Minoli - Credit: Archant

Captain George Hazlett says Belsize Park’s 14-point lead over Hackney will count for little when they visit their closest pursuers in the promotion battle at the weekend.

Second-placed Belsize secured their eighth consecutive victory on Saturday, with Mark McKinley, Vytas Semogas, Jamie Irvine, Ben Parker and Colm McMahon all touching down against Grasshoppers to earn a bonus point.

That took them level at the top with leaders London Nigerian and 14 points ahead of third-placed Hackney, as both of their rivals won but failed to register four tries.

With the top two teams expected to go up, Belsize have a commanding advantage - but Hazlett knows that could easily change this weekend and is aware of the stakes.

“It’s a bit silly to look at it as a cushion,” he told Ham&High Sport. “If you go into every game like that you’ll probably lose them. You go into it with the mindset that the chips are down.

“It’s kind of a dirty match for us. We lost to them when we were going for promotion a couple of years ago and a lot of the boys remember that every time we play them. We both went up [from Herts/Middlesex Division One in 2014] but they won the league.

“We’ve been on the right side of the score-line in the last couple of games against them but they’re doing really well, they’re putting in really big performances so it’s going to be one of the toughest matches of the season.”

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Belsize found themselves 9-0 down after 15 minutes against Grasshoppers on Saturday, having watched three penalty kicks fly between their sticks.

However, consistent pressure at the other end resulted in McKinley charging down a kick to score the first try, and a series of pick-and-go runs from the pack ended with prop Semogas getting over the line.

Full-back Irvine chased down Adam Caines’ kick to touch down before kicking the conversion himself, and Parker charged down another clearance to add the fourth try while McMahon dived over to finish off a maul following a lineout. Irvine notched his second conversion and Mark Liebling also dissected the uprights to complete the scoring.

Director of rugby Zach Webb said: “Grasshoppers proved to be one of our most difficult opponents earlier in the season. I’m delighted that we weathered the initial storm and showed great character to win well.

“Looking ahead to Hackney, this is a fixture we have always looked forward to over the past few seasons as they are wonderful rivals and have become good friends.

“They will no doubt be a huge challenge but we have a great side that is constantly looking to improve and test itself so we relish the challenge.”