Hampstead make their best ever start to a league season after victory over HAC

Captain Andy McEwen was Hampstead's man of the match against HAC. Pic: Paolo Minoli

Captain Andy McEwen was Hampstead's man of the match against HAC. Pic: Paolo Minoli - Credit: Archant

Hampstead have made their best ever start to a league season after triumphing 20-10 away against HAC in London North-West Division Two on Saturday.

The competitive league pyramid was set up in 1987 and, in those 28 years, Hampstead have twice begun their campaign with three victories and two defeats from their first five matches.

However, Saturday’s victory – courtesy of tries from Rob Goode and Dan Dimoline and a further 10 points from Dimoline’s boot – leaves them with three wins, a draw and a defeat, and they have climbed into fourth spot.

The heavens opened just as the game kicked off, limiting Hampstead’s ability to play their favoured free-flowing rugby. The first half was defined by a battle between the forwards, while the backs were restricted to playing a kicking and territory game.

Neil Watt denied HAC an opening try with a last-ditch tackle, but the hosts took the lead anyway with a penalty. That was cancelled out, though, when Olufemi Ajayi made a 20m break and man of the match Andy McEwan was halted by a high tackle, allowing Dimoline to kick for goal and level the scores at 3-3 going into half-time.

The second half was a livelier affair, with Hampstead applying pressure and taking the lead with a 40m penalty from Dimoline, while HAC were reduced to 14 men when their number eight was sin-binned for stamping.

Captain McEwan made yards following a scrum, and debutant Dermott Murphy broke before sending a grubber kick into the corner, resulting in a catch and drive from a line-out and a converted try for the stretching Goode, putting Hampstead 13-3 up.

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The 10-point lead was short-lived as an intercepted pass inside the visitors’ own 22 following the restart allowed HAC to hit straight back with a converted score of their own.

But Hampstead refused to be disheartened and, with McEwan continuously breaking the gain line from the back of the scrum and in open play, they opened up a narrow gap around the halfway line, with Dimoline slipping through and side-stepping three players before sprinting clear, touching down under the posts and adding the extras.