Hampstead sparkle in the gloom to down leaders Belsize Park

The latest rugby news from the local scene (pic: George Phillipou/TGS Photo)

The latest rugby news from the local scene (pic: George Phillipou/TGS Photo) - Credit: George Phillipou/TGS Photo

A resurgent Hampstead beat north London rivals Belsize Park 24-21 in a pulsating London Two North West derby on Saturday that could have gone either way right up until the final whistle.

In an enthralling encounter marred only by the cold, lashing rain and biting wind, both sides put on a terrific display with remarkably few handling errors given the atrocious conditions.

The victory over the leaders gave Hampstead a five-point win over a top-two side for the second week running.

Things had started well for Belsize, with a period of sustained pressure leading to an early try that was handsomely converted from near the touchline.

But Hampstead responded a quarter of an hour later with a quick brace to make it 12-7.

Mitch Daniel drew Hampstead level when he ripped the ball from his own winger to dot down.

And when Belsize lost the ball forwards in midfield, centre Pete Bicknell launched a counter-attack that saw Ajayi Olefumi eventually barge over for a five-pointer.

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The visitors held their nerve and continued to kick for territory, a tactic that paid off just before half-time as they crossed for their second converted try to go into the break leading 14-12.

Hampstead were the stronger at the start of the second half and when Belsize were penalised for illegal entry into a ruck, fly-half Arthur Haynes cut a neat line to score under the posts.

Harper added the two points to snatch back the lead at 19-14, but Belsize scored a third try after another period of sustained pressure.

And, with around 10 minutes to go, they looked set to grind out their 10th win of the season, but from a scrum on the edge of the Belsize 22m, Hampstead secured possession and some excellent quick-thinking by fly-half Haynes saw him deft kicked behind the defence for Brooks to score.

There was more drama to come, however, as Hampstead missed a penalty and were denied a fifth try.

In a last-gasp drive, Belsize ran the ball out of defence, only to knock-on close to Hampstead’s line.

The win moved Hampstead up to fifth, level with fourth-placed Welwyn.