Belsize Park captain warns: There’s no margin for error in promotion fight

Belsize Park captain Tom House. Pic: Paolo Minoli

Belsize Park captain Tom House. Pic: Paolo Minoli - Credit: Archant

Belsize Park captain Tom House says the last six games are all must-win encounters as his side chase a second successive promotion – but he believes the team’s home form gives them every chance of success.

Having moved up to London North-West Division Three last summer, Belsize sit second in the table, seven points behind leaders Fullerians.

A runners-up spot might be enough – as it was last season. But, with Welwyn just four points adrift in third place, House knows there is no margin for error.

“Everyone’s raring to go and really excited about the run-in,” he told Ham&High Sport. “The thing is, because we lost four games before Christmas, every game now is must-win for us. We’re treating each one like a cup final because if we lose one then that probably puts Welwyn in front of us and then we’re behind and chasing again, waiting for somebody else to slip up.

“The nature of this league is it’s so open. We went to Finchley before Christmas and lost there and we nearly fluffed our lines at Old Streetonians last time out. I really think anyone can beat anyone in this league.”

The good news for Belsize is that four of their last six games are at home - where they boast a formidable record – including the next two matches against Datchworth and Hitchin.

“I don’t think any of the boys will be lacking in motivation against Datchworth this weekend,” said House. “They stuck one up us in November at their place but we’ve just shown time and time again that we’re very hard to beat at the Park.

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“I don’t think we’ve lost there since September 2013 so we’re looking forward to it and teaching their scrummage a thing or two after they taught us a lesson last time.

“The games we’ve lost this season have all been on the road and we won’t be afraid of hosting Fullerians when the time comes [on March 21] or Grasshoppers on the last day of the season.”

House admits he and his team-mates were stepping into the unknown when they won promotion last year, so he is delighted to be competing at the top end of the new division and eyeing a third promotion in four years.

“We didn’t have a clue what to expect,” he said. “We lost a number of players – most notably Corey Nash, who scored an insane number of tries last season. “We didn’t know what we were going to do, but we’ve been extremely fortunate in bringing in Jeremy Burton and Will Allen, who have been brilliant.

“Our recruitment guys are so good at bringing in new faces. When I joined the club we struggled to put out three teams on the Saturday and now we’re basically putting out six.”

Bonus points could be crucial in the promotion battle as Belsize bid to stay above Welwyn and close in on Fullerians ahead of next month’s top-of-the-table showdown, but House is not planning to make any tactical changes.

“I think with the style of rugby we play it lends itself to scoring tries and winning bonus points anyway,” he said. “I don’t feel we would need to abandon our structure to chase tries and bonus points.

“I think in all the games we’ve lost there’s only one where we didn’t get a bonus point - we just score loads of tries naturally. There’ll be no need to panic, we can only beat what’s in front of us, and that’s what we’ll be trying to do.”