Hampstead coach has no bitterness about defeat to the leaders - but he’s ‘desperate’ for a top-four finish

Max Moncrieff scored Hampstead's try against league leaders Old Haberdashers on Saturday. Pic: Paolo

Max Moncrieff scored Hampstead's try against league leaders Old Haberdashers on Saturday. Pic: Paolo Minoli - Credit: Archant

Hampstead head coach Peter Breen says his side were beaten fair and square by the league leaders – but he remains positive about the club’s progress and is “desperate” for a top-four finish.

Hampstead were scheduled to be at home in Saturday’s London North-West Division Two clash but instead visited Old Haberdashers, who had agreed to sacrifice home advantage in the reverse fixture in October and allow their opponents to host a ladies’ day.

Breen’s side went 8-0 down and, although two Dan Dimoline penalties and a Max Moncrieff try gave them a 13-8 lead with 15 minutes left, they were unable to hold on and ultimately lost 22-13.

“There wasn’t much doubt that they were going to get back into it,” Breen told Ham&High Sport. “I couldn’t see how we were going to keep them out. They just had too much ball and they had much heavier runners than us. Their fly-half is 15 or 16 stone.

“Early on one of our new stars Jonty Hallett made a 60m break and would have scored but he pulled a hamstring, which meant he didn’t score and had to be substituted after five minutes. That was a big loss because we just couldn’t get over the gain line in the backs.

“We ended up with a fly-half at No9, 10 and 12 and it really wasn’t a day for flowing rugby. The only option we had was to try to pass round the outside of them.

“A team that are deservedly top of the league were better than us and they showed more composure. They’re a top club, they’re a great bunch of guys at Old Haberdashers and it’s not bitter to lose to them.”

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Fourth-placed Hampstead have now slipped seven points off the top and six points behind both Fullerians and Hammersmith & Fulham, who won their respective games.

“We never thought we’d win the league, I never thought that,” said Breen. “We came 10th [in 2014] and then ninth [in 2015] and I thought, with the progression we’re making, that we should come in the top four and I’m desperate for us to do that.

“If we didn’t get in the top four it would be a very bad tail-off, but we’re not quite as good as Hammersmith & Fulham and Haberdashers.

“Last year we beat Haberdashers by two points in one game and then we lost by about 50 points in the other. This year we beat them by 14 points at home and now we’ve lost by nine and I think that shows where we are. We’re almost their equal, we just need a bit more power.”

Breen had special praise for recent signing Will Dodds, who has impressed in the second row.

“He’s only 19 and has had five games in the first team, and each game he gets better and better,” said Breen. “It’s great for us because we lost Rob Goode for the season with his fractured leg last week.

“Will plays in a similar role and I’ve got a lot of time for him. To play amongst those heavy players at the age of 19 you’ve got to be very brave and committed, and he is.”