Breen hails Hampstead’s strength in depth as Wood quickly makes his mark

Hampstead head coach Peter Breen says Pete Wood’s impressive return to the first team underlines the club’s strength in depth after the winger scored twice in Saturday’s victory over London Nigerian.

Wood, who has recently returned from an injury-hit 18 months, has been turning out for the second string since the start of the season.

But he made the most of his call-up to the senior side at the weekend, crossing the line twice in the first half as Hampstead overcame an early setback to comfortably secure their fifth victory from their opening six games.

“He’s been out for well over a year from the first team and we’ve had a winning side so he’s found it hard to get back in – but once he got his chance he took it, to say the least,” Breen told Ham&High Sport.

“He is rapid at this level. He’s a good player. In his school and university days he played as a nine but he plays on the wing for us.

“He’s definitely in the top three fastest guys in the league, and we win a lot more ball than when he played for us previously, but we don’t turn all that pressure into tries and he gives us more of a try-scoring option on the left wing.

“The most pleasing thing is we didn’t have [Dan] Dimoline or our captain [Andy] McEwen at the weekend, but it wasn’t mentioned beforehand and it wasn’t even noticed during the game.

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“It was only pointed out to me on the way home and that is very pleasing – Dimoline is normally our top try-scorer, or he has been in the last couple of years.

“Maybe previously we would have asked a few people to play who are carrying injuries or niggles, and now we don’t. We say ‘have a rest’ and they come and watch the game. It’s a really healthy position to be in.”

Hampstead conceded a converted try after just 90 seconds on Saturday but Alex Brooks kicked a penalty and Wood then ran from 50m to touch down before diving on the ball behind the try-line to double his tally.

Brooks also went over the whitewash to put the visitors 22-7 up at the interval, and Breen’s side scored another three tries after the break.

Number eight Rob Sykes grounded the ball as Hampstead pushed their way over the line, and James Glaysher then scored from a driving maul before Max Moncrieff, who was standing in as captain, got in on the act.

London Nigerian had the final word with a consolation try but Hampstead emerged victorious with a bonus point, leaving them third in the table and just one point off the top.

“This week was our best performance,” said Breen. “We’ve always got sparkling back play but we scored push-over tries and scored from our driving maul so we were a threat in the forwards and in the backs, which is a very difficult thing to counter. Our defence was solid and our organisation was good too.

“We’re not looking at the league title, we just want to really play well and enjoy our rugby and, come Christmas, we’ll have a better view on it.

“It’s just nice to be winning games and great to have competition for places. Our second team won 69-13 at the weekend so that’s the sort of spirit that starts to go through the senior sides.

“We just always wanted to be a top-three team that wins 13 to 15 games. Three years ago we ended up with 25 points at the end of the season. We’re now on 24 points after six games, so that shows how far we’ve come.”

Hampstead host ninth-placed Harpenden this Saturday.