Breen praises Hampstead’s progress as they seize second spot

Hampstead captain Andy McEwen scored three of his side's five tries. Pic: Paolo Minoli

Hampstead captain Andy McEwen scored three of his side's five tries. Pic: Paolo Minoli - Credit: Archant

Hampstead’s head coach Peter Breen has hailed the club’s progress over the last two years after a fourth victory from the opening six games took them up to second place in London North-West Division Two.

Captain and man of the match Andy McEwen touched down three times in a 29-10 home win over basement boys Old Merchant Taylors’, with Dan Dimoline scoring his seventh try of the season and centre Will Reed also going over on his debut as the hosts secured a bonus point on Hampstead Heath.

It leaves Hampstead just one point off the top, and they visit league leaders Fullerians on Saturday.

Breen told Ham&High Sport: “When I joined the club 24 months ago we had played six, lost five and drawn one and were bottom of the league. This weekend’s result means we have played six, won four, drawn one and lost one and are placed second.

“It has been a huge effort on and off the pitch to turn it around, but mainly on the pitch. Our captain Andy McEwen, vice-captain Dan Dimoline and a group of other players have been there through the whole process and I am proud to be associated with them and to have been with them over this period.

“The start to the season is now building its own momentum. On the last two Tuesdays we have had 54 and then 60 people at training. Those are huge numbers for midweek in the winter and there is fierce competition for places.”

Breen went on: “The score on Saturday looks closer than it was. We scored five tries to their one, and on a day when it was difficult to play rugby, five tries was a good return.

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“They were terrible conditions – torrential rain for the first half and an extremely wet ground. In the circumstances we played some really good stuff.

“By conceding just 10 points we still have the best defence in the league, and our defence is something I am extremely proud of – we’ve only conceded 83 points in six games.

“In the second half on Saturday we spent one period of 15 minutes continuously defending in our 22, and at the end of that period Old Merchant Taylors’ had not scored a single point.

“As well as the entire 15-man defence, our front row are extremely good this season and our new hooker Matt Ward has made a huge difference to how we play.”

Hampstead returned to action after a week off looking to extend their best ever start to a league season, and they quickly won a penalty.

Due to the difficult conditions, the decision was taken to kick to the corner, and that was vindicated as a catch and drive resulted in McEwen’s first try of the day.

The visitors responded with a penalty kick, but Hampstead forced a scrum on the five-metre line and McEwen went over again. A last-ditch tackle meant he knocked the ball on as he attempted to ground it, but the hosts won the resulting scrum against the head and this time McEwen was not to be denied.

Hampstead continued to dominate at the set piece, refusing to allow their opponents to win a single line-out, and Reed marked his first game for the club with a try, while Dimoline got his customary score after the break.

The bonus point secured, Hampstead played for territory, with substitute fly-half Damien Naughten’s kicking keeping the away team pinned in their own half – and a knock-on gave the hosts’ pack the chance to drive over the line and allowed McEwen to complete his treble, with Dimoline converting.

Old Merchant Taylors’ refused to give up and scored a consolation try but the day belonged to Hampstead, who now turn their attention to a top-of-the-table clash.

n Hampstead’s first and second teams are now training on the astroturf pitch at The Archer Academy in Finchley on Wednesdays, while also having the use of the school gymnasium, from 7-9pm.

For newcomers and the club’s other teams, training will continue to take place on Tuesday nights at the Parliament Hill Fields running track from 7-8.30pm.

Breen will be in attendance along with three of four other coaches, with the intention of improving the standard of the lower teams and producing players who can join the first and second XV squads. Anyone who is interested in playing for Hampstead can call Breen on 07972187377.