Hampstead coach backs new winger Ajayi to score 30 tries after debut hat-trick

Olufemi Ajayi (left) scored three second-half tries on his Hampstead debut. Pic: Paolo Minoli

Olufemi Ajayi (left) scored three second-half tries on his Hampstead debut. Pic: Paolo Minoli - Credit: Archant

Hampstead coach Peter Breen has backed the club’s new winger Olufemi Ajayi to score 30 tries this season after he scored a hat-trick on his debut.

Standing 6ft 3ins tall and weighing 17 and a half stone, the new recruit – who works at the Royal Free hospital - played with Leicester Lions in National Division One before being ruled out for a year through injury.

Having observed a Hampstead training session in Gospel Oak and decided to sign up, the 23-year-old was registered in time to make his bow in Saturday’s home game against Staines – and, having been introduced on the half-hour mark, he scored three times after the interval in a 46-7 home win in London North-West Division Two.

“With one of them, he caught the kick-off and went 50m and knocked over about six people,” Breen told Ham&High Sport. “We’d like him to stay because if he gets back to match fitness…

“He would have been on a contract in Division One on quite good money. We would like him to stay and enjoy his rugby and bring on the team around him. I would think he’ll score more than 30 tries.

“If you’ve got 30 tries on the wing then you’re a top-four or top-five team. Last year we battered Chiswick, who got promoted, in our away game and lost 18-13 because we didn’t have any wingers - we had centres on the wing.

“If we’d had somebody on the wing we would have been in the top five last year. We’ll lose games but we’ll win games we weren’t winning before.”

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Hampstead had lost their opening game at Enfield Ignatians 26-17 after conceding 10 points in the last 90 seconds, but they were quickly on top in their first home fixture.

Ill-discipline from Staines resulted in two yellow cards in the first 10 minutes and, with new hooker Matt Ward dominating in the scrum after his arrival from Southampton University, Hampstead earned two push-over tries, captain Andy McEwan grounding the ball on both occasions.

A penalty try was converted by Damien Naughten and scrum-half Will Pettit then sniped off the back of a ruck to record his fifth try in three games against Staines and establish a 22-0 half-time lead, the bonus point already in the bag.

With man of the match Ward winning a succession of tries against the head, Hampstead continued to press home their advantage after the break and, while they conceded a consolation try, Ajayi was at the heart of a ruthless second-half display while Neil Watt – a full-back who was playing at fly-half - also touched down as Hampstead finished with 46 points.

Breen’s boys have another potential star waiting in the wings, with full-back Jonathan Hallett – who played for Coventry – also registering for the club and preparing to enter the fray after being sidelined for three years due to injury.

“With him coming in at full-back we’ll have a back line to match our forwards,” said Breen. “I’m excited but I’m trying to keep a lid on it because sometimes I think ‘actually I think we’ve got the beating of most sides in this league’, but then you get injuries, you just don’t know.

“Last year we kind of had a holding position. We were one place above relegation in 2014 and we won nine games last year. I thought ‘the way it should go is that we win 13 games’ but we ended up with nine. I think we will do it this season - win 13 or 14 games.

“I suspect we’re a top-five team this year as opposed to a bottom-five team. We might be higher than that, I won’t know yet.

“I have to say some of the Staines boys really defended well and they kept going well. They’ve been decimated over the last few years with people leaving the club, and the last coach got a job at Chiswick and took eight players with him. So some credit has to go to them because they constantly stuck at it and they scored a really good try against us under the posts.”

Hampstead face a tough test this Saturday when they host Haberdashers, who have won 17 of their last 20 games and thumped Breen’s boys 71-19 in the last meeting.

“They are incredibly good – I think they’ll go up with Hammersmith & Fulham - but I think we’ll narrow that gap,” said Breen.

Hampstead will hope to be cheered on by a strong home crowd at the Hampstead Heath extension as they host their ladies’ day, with all ladies getting free drinks all afternoon from 1.30pm and for most of the evening. The second team will also be in action against their counterparts from Old Haberdashers, with both matches kicking off at 2pm.

Meanwhile, the club are still looking for new players to join their squads. Anyone interested is invited to turn up to training at 7pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Parliament Hill running track in Gospel Oak.