Hampstead coach: Victory over Harrow shows just how far we have come in the last two years
- Credit: Archant
Head coach Peter Breen says Hampstead’s victory over Harrow on Saturday underlines how far the squad has come in the last two years.
Hampstead lost both of their clashes against Harrow when their rivals were last in London Division Two North West in the 2014-15 campaign, going down 44-19 away from home before suffering a 58-7 defeat on the Heath in the reverse fixture.
Harrow were promoted as champions that year, finishing eight places and 38 points above Breen’s side.
But they have since come back down and Hampstead secured a 34-15 away win at the weekend, banking the seventh victory from their opening eight games – plus the bonus point - and staying joint top at the summit of the table.
“Both the coaches and players were scarred by Harrow two years ago when they put 100 points on us in two games, and although they don’t have all the same players – they were a better side then – it’s still hard not to feel it when you turn up there,” Breen told Ham&High Sport. “So I had a feeling of concern mixed with this growing confidence.
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“Before we lost against HAC at the start of October we won four games in a row, but there was never really a complete performance. In every game since that loss it’s become increasingly better and we’ve played good rugby for longer periods in each game.
“I’m really delighted with it and the response to losing Will Pettit to injury was fantastic. Arthur Haynes again stood in at fly-half and we haven’t lost a single half of rugby when he’s played at 10.
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“There have been a few good things in the last couple of weeks – closing out a close game, bouncing back after a loss.
“We treat it one half at a time but I’ve always wanted to win more games than we lose – which we did last year – and then to win at least two more than last year.
“So at the start of the season I thought if we could get to 13 or 14 wins then I’d be really happy – but we’ve already got seven from eight games and we’re playing very well.
“We normally have 48 people at training on Tuesday nights, and if a coach can’t get a winning team regularly out of that then there’s something wrong with the coach!”
Neil Watt scored the opening try on Saturday and, five minutes later, Craig Harper ran under the posts after a sniping run around the corner of a ruck, while Dan Dimoline kicked his second successful conversion to put Hampstead 14-0 up.
Harrow scored a penalty and then a try but a rehearsed move led to a score from Alex Brooks, and captain Andy McEwen then went over the line as the visitors secured their four-try bonus point before half-time, going into the break with a 24-8 lead.
Dimoline then added a penalty before prop Freddie Jackson crossed the whitewash and, although Harrow had the final word, Hampstead were comfortable winners.
While winger Olufemi Ajayi was named the man of the match, Breen believes new recruit Declan Lamyman deserves his share of the credit for Hampstead’s success.
“He plays as a blindside flanker and it’s the first time we’ve had a No6,” he said. “We’ve either had a No7 or a No8 converted, but he’s an out-and-out No6 and it’s made such a difference to the team.
“You want them to be the heaviest tackler, maybe the strongest mauler and make hard metres, and he does all of that.
“You don’t realise what you’re missing until you’ve got one, and he’s a young lad – he’s only 22. He didn’t get into Durham University’s first team, which surprises me, and he’s really settled at this level.
“He’s played every minute of every game so far and that’s one of the reasons we’ve done so well.”
Hampstead now have a weekend off before hosting basement boys Stockwood Park on November 19, and Breen said: “It’s really good for everyone, especially me, because I wake up at 7 o’clock on Saturday mornings.
“I’ll go and watch the junior teams at midday and then I’ll watch the England match. I’ll still watch rugby but I’ll be able to watch it while enjoying it and relaxing and laughing rather than being tense from beginning to end!”