Valliant Hampstead fall short but push leaders London Welsh all the way
- Credit: Archant
Hampstead went down fighting against London Welsh on Saturday but pushed the league leaders all the way in a pulsating encounter as they lost 17-11 at Old Deer Park.
No-one in a 400-strong home crowd could have felt aggrieved had the north Londoners won a contest ultimately decided by three tries from the London Welsh rolling maul armoury.
Hampstead started brightly and Craig Harper, playing at fly-half, kicked them into an early lead before Welsh scored their first try through Michael Griffiths after 14 minutes.
Harper nosed his team back in front four minutes later with a second penalty, before Hampstead extended their advantage with their only try of the game.
The visitors secured possession from a lineout and advanced a rolling maul of their own and, after several phases of play near the Welsh try line, a cute inside pass from Harper saw Hampstead's man of the match Stefan Psota crash through to score.
The conversion went astray and Welsh missed a chance to reduce the deficit as a penalty kick sailed wide. But the home side edged ahead before the break with a seven-pointer when Thomas Baldwin got the ball over the whitewash from another rolling maul.
The second half followed a similar pattern with Hampstead putting Welsh under intense pressure with some sublime attacking rugby that drew admiring gasps from the boisterous home support.
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But Hampstead's failure to land a knockout blow proved costly as Welsh notched the only points.
A magnificent penalty kick for touch gave the home side a lineout on Hampstead's five metre line, and it was Harry Green who secured his side another five-pointer from yet another rolling maul.
Hampstead thought they had clinched a famous victory at the death when wing Alex Brook streaked clear after intercepting an errant Welsh pass, only for referee Fenton to call back play for a previous infringement.
It was a disappointing end for the a magnificent display by the North Londoners.
"Totally gutted," said head coach Peter Breen. "A game we expected to win and in all fairness deserved to win, just slipped out of our hands."
Hampstead next play at home on the Hampstead Heath Extension on December 7, when they host fourth-placed Grasshoppers, who stand one point above them in London Two North West.