Hampstead’s heroic comeback against HAC is ultimately in vain
- Credit: Archant
Hampstead came agonisingly close to a stunning comeback victory against HAC but ultimately paid the price for a poor defensive display to go down 38-31 at home in London Division Two North-West.
Trailing 38-3 early in the second half, there seemed to be little way back for Hampstead, but they then scored four unanswered tries in succession through Dan Dimoline, Dave Bartholomew, Will Pettit, Matt Dudgeon to close the gap to seven points. However, HAC held on to condemn their hosts to their second defeat in their opening two games.
“It’s an obvious thing to say, but if we’d played more sensibly in the first half we’d have won easily,” said captain Max Rawlinson. “It’s disappointing to lose again, but I saw enough in the second half to make me confident going into next week.”
Looking to bounce back from a disappointing opening-day defeat to Chiswick, Hampstead started strongly and stretched the HAC defence with some slick passing. HAC were penalised for killing the ball and fly-half Morgan Clement opened the scoring with a 40-yard penalty.
The home team continued to attack but couldn’t convert territory into tries and were hampered by a series of unforced errors.
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Instead of staying patient, Hampstead tried to force the matter, leading to an HAC interception try under the posts, which was successfully converted.
A young and inexperienced Hampstead team then pressed the self-destruct button. Three more HAC tries - two coming from long distance breakaways and missed tackles - highlighted the away team’s attacking prowess, as well as Hampstead’s defensive frailty. At the interval, Hampstead were 21 points down and their heads were sagging.
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Many of the watching masses surely felt things couldn’t get any worse. They were wrong. Almost from the kick-off, HAC scored under the posts, then followed it up with a second converted try. Now 35 points in arrears, Hampstead were down and very nearly out.
But then something magical happened. Hampstead started throwing the ball around, making clean breaks and offloading to support runners.
New fullback Dimoline chased his own kick to score a solo try and veteran hooker Dave Bartholomew bundled over from short range before substitute fly-half Pettit ran in for an individual score, with all tries of the tries being successfully converted by Dimoline.
The shackles were well and truly off and HAC were panicking. When centre Dudgeon went over for a fourth unanswered Hampstead try, the away team appeared ready to keel over - but they managed to hold on until the final whistle.