True grit sees Hampstead overcome promotion-chasing Chiswick

Hampstead RFC face the camera after victory over Chiswick (Pic: Jon Boyle)

Hampstead RFC face the camera after victory over Chiswick (Pic: Jon Boyle) - Credit: Archant

Hampstead began the new year with an impressive 17-12 win at promotion-chasing Chiswick on Saturday, with a gutsy defensive display against a quicksilver attacking side rounded off by some clinical strikes of their own.

Penalised at the first scrum of the game, Chiswick were rocked back on their heels by some scintillating backs play and only a high tackle prevented wing Arthur Haynes from scoring.

When Chiswick infringed at a five-metre scrum, having been pushed backwards for the second time in succession, the referee had no hesitation in awarding Hampstead a penalty try.

The hosts recovered from the early setback to enjoy a spell of dominance and only some prodigious defence by Hampstead - whose loose forward Josh Walker tackled three players in succession - kept Chiswick out.

On the half-hour mark the pressure told, however, and Chiswick bundled the ball over the line after foiling Hampstead's attempts to sap a driving maul from a five-metre lineout.

The conversion sailed wide and five minutes later Hampstead's Ben Nichols stretched his team's advantage with a well-taken penalty after Chiswick were offside at the ruck.

With half-time beckoning Chiswick again threatened a score but fell foul of the referee at another ruck. Some poor handling by the home side saw Hampstead hack the ball 40 metres downfield where a knock-on gave the visitors good field position.

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Hampstead continued to dominate Chiswick at the scrum and although Rob Sykes thought he had scored a try after a series of Hampstead thrusts towards the line, the ball was adjudged to have been held up.

Minutes later, however, Max Moncrieff went over from another Hampstead scrum and fly-half Nichols, who had an excellent game, added the extras.

Leading 17-5 at the turnaround, Hampstead failed to score in the second half and were on the back foot for large parts of the second period.

An uncharacteristic missed tackle just five metres out gave Chiswick a try eight minutes into the half and a regulation conversion brought them to within a score of the visitors.

But Hampstead held on and host second-placed Hammersmith & Fulham on Saturday.

Hampstead Head Coach Peter Breen said: "Historically, Hampstead were never regular winners against these opponents and so to achieve our second win in three seasons at Chiswick and our third in total, plus a draw, is no small achievement.

"Both teams desperately wanted to win to stay in the hunt for a playoff place and maybe that desperation affect the skill levels.

"Almost nothing could separate the teams except the Hampstead scrum. A penalty try, a pushover try and and penalty is a remarkable return from a scrum that was, according to the Chiswick scrum coach, the weaker of the two teams."