Hampstead suffer heartbreaking late defeat against title rivals Hammersmith & Fulham

Olufemi Ajayi (left) scored Hampstead's try. Pic: Paolo Minoli

Olufemi Ajayi (left) scored Hampstead's try. Pic: Paolo Minoli - Credit: Archant

Hampstead suffered a heartbreaking 17-13 defeat against title rivals Hammersmith & Fulham in London North-West Division Two as victory turned into defeat with just 90 seconds left.

Two penalties from Dan Dimoline were followed by a converted try from Olufemi Ajayi, giving the hosts a 13-10 lead.

But they spent the last 15 minutes defending inside their own half and then their 22 – and with less than two minutes remaining Hammersmith scored in the corner from the scrum, adding a fine conversion from the touchline.

It meant the victors leapfrogged their hosts to claim third place and Hampstead are now seven points behind leaders Old Haberdashers, who won at HAC.

Head coach Peter Breen reflected: “Losing the lead with 90 seconds to go against league contender rivals wasn’t the ideal way to finish 2015, but that’s the nature of sport.

“We’re only two points off the second and third places and I’m delighted with our general improvement – especially the fact that we have the best defensive record in the league.

“There are some areas where we need to improve and I’m certain that, with a little hard work, we will manage that.

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“The squad is happy, most of the time, on and off the pitch. Obviously the keen competition for places makes things a little tough for those who don’t get selected every week, but it means that when we lose players we remain very competitive.

“I would love to have a second half of the season that is slightly better than the first – eight wins from 11 is an achievable goal. We’re not yet a league-winning team but we are a top-four team and we must aim to stay there.

“Of course, injuries, illnesses, other teams’ improvements and the dreaded skiing season will have an effect, but I want to win eight games and finish with close to 80 points.

“If we achieve that, coming from the depths we were in, I would be delighted – as would all the players.”