Belsize Park move seven points clear after beating Kilburn Cosmos
- Credit: Archant
Belsize Park have gone seven points clear at the top of Herts/Middlesex Division One after winning their crucial top-of-the-table clash away at Kilburn Cosmos 16-5 on Saturday.
Zach Webb scored the opening try and, although Kilburn equalised shortly after half-time, Corey Nash crossed the whitewash and Richard Wilson kicked two penalties as BP extended their magnificent winning run to 10 games – equalling a club record.
Head coach Andy Barrington said: “This is a game where the result was everything, and it was a bonus that we did it with an excellent last 20 minutes.
“It was a grown-up game of rugby which we won fair and square. In all honesty, it could have gone either way and the difference was our ability to use possession better, more accurately, and finish moves.”
Belsize now have three weeks off during the festive period, and they can merrily reflect on the fact that they have won 11 of their 12 league games, while avenging their only defeat of the season, which came at home against Kilburn on the second weekend of the campaign.
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Captain Tom House said: “We’re thrilled to go in to the Christmas break with 10 straight wins.
“It was never the plan that I would take the reins this year, but we lost our captain Jonny Jones early in the season to an Achilles injury. The boys have made it very easy by training hard and keeping the results coming.
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“Having lost Jonny and Jim Turner - our first-choice props at the start of the year - we could have struggled but we have uncovered real talent in Olly Budd, Adam French, Nick Tyler and recently Iwan Davies, a Kilburn Cosmos defector who unfortunately broke his hand on Saturday.
“The greatest pleasure for me comes in playing with [my brother] Fred, who sets the highest standards in everything he does, so although I am currently wearing the armband he truly leads by example.
“The spirit amongst us is tremendous, which is impressive given the size of our squad. Eight of the boys who played on Saturday have been involved in the second XV this season and there are plenty more boys snapping at our heels.
“With the systems that Andy Barrington has put in place there is very healthy competition for places in the top three Belsize teams now. On a couple of occasions we put out six teams on a Saturday including the veterans, so there really is rugby for everyone here.”
Belsize won the toss against Kilburn and opted to play into the wind in the first half – a strategy which has served them well to date.
Nathan Thoday, who was starting for the first time since October, gathered the kick and ran aggressively into the Kilburn defence, setting the tone for a very committed and physical 80 minutes.
The first scrum gave an indication of which way the forward battle was going to go as Belsize drove the home side’s eight back, and they disintegrated.
With the wind behind them, Kilburn had plenty of opportunities to pin back their visitors into their own half, but the kicking was rarely accurate and the chase was inconsistent.
BP’s Guy Parker and Mark Liebling looked composed, whereas the home side were guilty of kicking the ball dead and conceding 22 drop-outs on more than one occasion.
Possession was more or less equal, but the Belsize line-out functioned smoothly, providing a platform for the explosive running of Fred House and Chris Clemmow.
It was the running of all eight forwards that made the difference, and man of the match Adam Caines was particularly potent in the second row.
However, it was Webb who opened the scoring for the first try, pouncing on the loose ball after Clemmow had carried it upfield and propelling himself over the line in typically unyielding fashion, despite having three men hanging off him.
BP led 5-0 at half-time but they were then caught napping, and some uncharacteristically sloppy tackling allowed Cosmos’ Niall Coghlan to dot down and level the scores within two minutes of the interval.
Belsize kept calm though, and Wilson slotted a penalty between the posts from over 40 yards to regain the lead before the visitors scored their second try.
Tom House, who was imperious at the front of the line once again, stole the ball on the halfway line and fed Webb, and the ball then went through the hands of Arnaud Coffin and Charlie Oakes to give Nash an overlap – and he broke a few tackles and rounded the full-back to put BP 13-5 up.
Wilson missed the conversion but went on to score another penalty as Belsize extended their lead before the final whistle.
They return to action on January 4 with a big home game against Barnet Elizabethans, who leapfrogged Kilburn into second place over the weekend.
Belsize Park: Budd, Webb, French, Caines, House, Thoday, Clemmow, House, Parker, Wilson, Leibling, Coffin, Oakes, Nash, Parker, Davies, Ladd.