Belsize Park secure early promotion - now Hazlett wants the title

Belsize Park captain George Hazlett (centre). Pic: Paolo Minoli

Belsize Park captain George Hazlett (centre). Pic: Paolo Minoli - Credit: Archant

Belsize Park have secured a top-two finish and an early promotion from London North West Division Three – but captain George Hazlett is urging his side to keep their foot on the gas as he eyes a final-day title showdown with London Nigerian.

Saturday’s 18-17 home win over Datchworth took Belsize 16 points clear of third-placed Finchley with three games to go and ensured they will move up a tier for the second time in three years.

Yet the goal has always been the league title and BP are two points behind leaders London Nigerian, who have won 18 of their 19 fixtures this season.

However, Hazlett and his team-mates are on a 13-match winning streak themselves and remain within striking distance as the two teams close in a decisive showdown on the final day of the campaign on April 23.

Belsize have two favourable fixtures before then, with Hitchin and Old Actonians both lying in the bottom three.

But the skipper is commanding his players to maintain momentum and ensure they are in top form when they attempt to pip the current leaders to the post.

“It’s great news to get promotion. It’s something we set out to do at the start of the season and to do that with three games left is really pleasing,” Hazlett told Ham&High Sport.

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“However, as we’ve been saying all along, we don’t want to be promoted in second place. No-one likes finishing second.

“We realise we’ve got three games left and we need to win all of those to go up in top spot. We’ve put ourselves in a good position and now we just need to finish strongly to make it feel really good.

“I don’t think the boys are going to slow down or change what we’re doing because obviously it’s working for us.

“We’ve only lost two games this year so we’re pretty happy with how we’re going, but it’s the last three games that are going to make all the difference. It wouldn’t be a bad thing if Nigerian slipped up but I doubt they will.

“It might look like we’ve got easy games at the moment – the next two – but earlier in the season we were away against Hemel Hempstead, when we were second and they were bottom of the table, and we lost. If you take the games lightly you will lose and we’re not going to be doing that.”

Hazlett went on: “We know that the last game is the biggest match for us. They [London Nigerian] beat us last time and they’re the ones we need to beat to go into first spot so before then, in the next two games, we have to prove what we can do.

“There’s no point having two average matches and then expecting to come out firing in the last one. It’s not how these things work. You’ve got to be consistent throughout the season.

“I’m expecting two massive performances in the next two weeks if we want to give ourselves a chance of coming away with the top spot. If you take your foot off the gas now you might as well not bother playing the games.”

Jeremy Burton kicked an early penalty to open the scoring for Belsize on Saturday, and Jamie Niven then scored a fine individual try after stepping past two defenders to make it 8-0.

But indiscipline cost the hosts, who conceded a try in the corner, and although Jack Marples’ excellent pass sent winger Mark Liebling away to dot down, Datchworth responded in kind to narrow the gap to three points again at 13-10.

Belsize extended their lead one more time, with nearly every back touching the ball before Ryan Forrester finished off an impressive team try.

But as they chased a fourth score and a bonus point, an intercepted pass in the final moments resulted in a converted try at the other end and left Belsize with a slender one-point lead at the final whistle.

Director of rugby Zach Webb said: “That wasn’t our best performance but we’ll take it. It’s great to be promoted but this season is about winning the league – our focus is exclusively on the next three wins.”