Hampstead Ladies pay the penalty as they lose lead against Blackheath

Lilly Hunt (centre) on the attack for Hampstead. Pic: Paolo Minoli

Lilly Hunt (centre) on the attack for Hampstead. Pic: Paolo Minoli - Credit: Archant

Hampstead Ladies remain fourth in Women’s Championship South East Division Two after losing 20-7 against second-placed Blackheath on Sunday.

Fran Hall (right) congratulates Lilly Hunt on her opening try. Pic: Paolo Minoli

Fran Hall (right) congratulates Lilly Hunt on her opening try. Pic: Paolo Minoli - Credit: Archant

The game was moved to Finchley RFC due to waterlogged pitches on Hampstead Heath extension, and Hampstead took the lead in front of a strong crowd through a Lilly Hunt try, but Blackheath roared back to win.

Both sides were forced to demonstrate their defensive steel at regular intervals in the first half, defending their own five-metre lines.

Blackheath were particularly dominant in the scrum, but with Hampstead proving their prowess in the line-outs, it was they who broke the stalemate as Hunt broke through under the posts and Fran Hall converted.

Old habits prevented Hampstead from kicking on, however, as the penalty count against them resulted in Blackheath getting an unconverted score in the corner and reducing the deficit to 7-5.

Kella Kapnisi drives forward for Hampstead. Pic: Paolo Minoli

Kella Kapnisi drives forward for Hampstead. Pic: Paolo Minoli - Credit: Archant

Hampstead’s Maria Lopez and Harriet Orrell – completing her first 80 minutes since breaking her foot – put in some big tackles after the interval, but another string of penalties allowed their opponents to take control.

Blackheath scored a second try out wide to take the lead, and then found gaps in the wide areas of a tiring defence to cross the line twice more before the end.

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Nonetheless, Hampstead’s head coach James Coubrough believes there were plenty of positives.

“The last two weeks have shown how far the team has come this season,” he said. “As a squad we are never satisfied with defeat but we have learned so much about ourselves and know where we need to improve.

“This was a tale of two halves and, with a hard-earned lead at the break, we had a fantastic opportunity to take a big scalp. In open play we held our own and even dominated in many areas.

“Our defence was tight and we controlled our own ball very well throughout. Unfortunately as the game wore on we weren’t able to capitalise on good field position and couldn’t find a way past their solid scrum and mauling.

“We have a great platform to push on and finish our season as strongly as we started and are looking forward to a good cup run.”

Meanwhile, Hampstead’s second XV narrowly lost 12-7 to Medway.

Anne Rodenburgh scored a well-deserved try on her swansong before returning to Holland, but that wasn’t enough to prevent defeat.

The ladies’ second string have played the Kent-based side five times in the past two years, and their latest showing was their best performance to date.

Medway led early on when several waves of pick-and-go rugby resulted in them going over in the corner after five minutes. But Hampstead recovered from the early setback in their most defensively disciplined showing of the season.

Scrum-half Irene Leardini bossed her forwards on her debut, launching a few promising backs moves which too often petered out due to difficult muddy conditions.

After being camped on their opponents’ 22, Hampstead were dealt the classic sucker-punch as Medway struck between the posts on the stroke of half-time following a series of missed tackles.

Hampstead refused to lie down after the break, with forwards Victoria Bibby, Kamilah Bannister and Luisa Niehaus matching Medway in the scrum and able to steal a few line-outs.

Having come close to the visitors’ try line on several occasions, and spurred on by the impressive Orla Hillary, Hampstead’s efforts were eventually repaid in the final phase of play.

Rodenburgh scored her second try for the club in her final outing, emerging out of the back of a ruck to score, with Annie Liddiard adding the extras.

Forwards coach Helen Chapman said: “It was a tough match for the second team but they played brilliantly. It shows how far they’ve come since the beginning of the season. They worked hard and are really coming together as a team.”