Breen: Hampstead could be on course for best ever season after ‘complete performance’
- Credit: Archant
Head coach Peter Breen says Hampstead’s 56-14 victory over Woodford was among the best he has ever been involved with, and he believes his side could be on course for their best season yet.
Hampstead lay fourth in London North-West Division Three before kick-off, one place behind a Woodford outfit who had hauled Fullerians off the top of the table earlier in the month - but Breen’s side scored eight tries, all converted by Dan Dimoline, to leapfrog their hosts.
Captain Andy McEwen, Will Pettit and Craig Harper touched down in the first half as Hampstead took a 21-0 lead into the interval.
And, although Woodford narrowed the gap to 21-14, the visitors scored another 35 points without reply following tries from Neil Watt, Dan Wigley, Shane Godding, Dimoline and Dave MacDonald.
“A couple of people have been here since 2009 and they said it was the best performance they’ve ever been involved in - and I’d say as a coach, in the last 20 years, it would be in the top four or five that I’ve coached,” Breen told Ham&High Sport. “It was a complete performance.
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“They pushed us off our ball to start with. They’re big and strong and they’ve played in the league above - but we just played 15-man rugby until their legs left.
“We do a lot of stuff in training to do with ‘what do you do when you get across the gain line, and how do you support each other?’ and it all worked. It was like every moment we practised just came in and started working, and there was a fantastic buzz.
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“We’re not a league-winning team yet because we struggle against heavy sides in the mud, but that was a league-winning performance. It’s just a question of whether we can do enough of them.
“It’s hard to keep your feet on the ground. I do manage to but it’s enjoyable and it’s why people give up their time.”
Hampstead finished ninth out of the 12 teams in their division last season but are only four points off the top at the moment after winning five and drawing one of their opening eight fixtures.
Breen believes Hampstead could match or better their best ever record of 15 wins in the 2009-10 season – although he is determined not to get carried away with just over a third of the season gone.
“Now that we’re using the indoor facility and Astroturf [at The Archer Academy], I really have a hunch we would win seven or eight of our last eight games,” he said. “Most clubs now are training in the cold and the wet or cancelling training and I think it’s really going to benefit us, so I’ve thought if we get to that stage and we’ve won nine games we might win 16, plus the draw, which would be our best return ever.
“But it’s good to manage expectations and I can’t count chickens really. Something close to our best return ever looks possible but we take it five minutes at a time.
“Every single game we break down into five minutes and we ignore everything that went before and everything that goes after. So we really don’t even talk about a game at a time, let alone how we’ll be [at the end of the season]. It’s just a fantastic feeling and it’s a joy to be part of - that’s enough.”
Breen is proud that his team are doing things the right way, highlighting their exemplary disciplinary record – and he is pleased to see the first team’s success filtering through the club.
“We’ve had referees applaud us and send letters this year saying that not only have we played really well, but praising our attitude,” said Breen.
“We won’t cheat, we won’t question the referee, we’ll be old-school and actually it’s helped us play better. We have a kind of philosophy like the 12-step philosophy - we only try to improve our individual performance.
“We don’t improve our team-mates’ or the referee’s or anybody else’s – and if you focus on that then you get better and referees start to like you, and you never have anybody yellow carded. We haven’t had a yellow card all season. These are the tiny things that add up.
“It’s a really good feeling and the second team are now so keen to get involved that they had a thumping 43-23 victory at the weekend, so they’re now fighting for places. It’s like the model of how you’re supposed to do it and it’s actually working.
“We had to limit [first-team] training on Wednesday night to 27 and we’ve got people knocking on the door pleading to come, and they can’t come so they came on the Tuesday where there were 35 people training. There’s a momentum going now which is hard to stop.”