Hendon aim to secure promotion at Saracens’ Allianz Park stadium in season finale
- Credit: Archant
Hendon can secure promotion in the glamorous surroundings of Saracens’ Allianz Park stadium this weekend after coming from behind three times to beat Haringey Rhinos 33-22 and move into the top two in Herts/Middlesex Division Two.
Despite tries from Chris Kyingi and Jamie Connolly and 11 points from the boot of captain Cian Hynes, the Dons – who were missing Brian O’Regan, vice-captain Toby Ikwueke and top try-scorer Derry O’Connor – found themselves 22-21 down against their fifth-placed visitors on Saturday.
However, Adam Johnson touched down twice in the final 15 minutes to secure a third successive victory, taking Hendon above rivals Watford and into the second promotion spot with just one game to go.
Another home win this Saturday will finish the job – and their opponents, West London, have lost eight of their nine games against the top five sides this season, including a 43-8 defeat to Hendon in November’s reverse fixture.
Hynes and his team-mates will be confident of getting over the line, and it is fitting that the celebrations would begin at the home of Premiership leaders Saracens, who allow Hendon to play one game per season on their artificial pitch.
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But the Dons’ skipper is aware that the prestigious venue is also likely to inspire West London’s players, who otherwise have little to play for, and guarantee the visitors arrive with a full-strength line-up.
“It means a bit more when you’re playing on such a nice surface and you’re playing with the best facilities you could possibly get,” Hynes told Ham&High Sport. “It adds a bit of gloss to the whole occasion.
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“At this stage our tails are up and, after the contest we had [against West London] last time, we know they have their vulnerabilities.
“We’re not taking anything for granted but, in saying that, we are confident, especially as the weather gets nicer. It helps us to play our rugby – and the fact we’re training there at the stadium on Wednesday evenings [helps] as well.
“The surface means a wet day wouldn’t be such a big factor too. The slower the ball gets, the closer the teams get and the more it becomes a bit of a dogfight, which is not really what you want.
“But then, because the game is at the stadium, the neutral players who would possibly be playing for them are more than likely going to all turn out. It’s a bit up in the air what sort of team will show up.
“In the last three games we had Thamesians down as being the toughest game and we ended up having a great result against them [a 55-7 away win].
“We thought Haringey wouldn’t be as good and they came up with a big fight so it’s hard to know [what to expect], but we’re not going to take any chances, especially after missing out last year.”
Hendon were also fighting for promotion on the final day of last season, starting the day just outside the top two places on points difference.
They won 62-14 away against sixth-placed Watford but suffered a heartbreaking disappointment as London French – who occupied the second spot – triumphed away against runaway title winners Hillingdon Abbots, who had won all of their previous home games.
It means Hendon know the value of going into this weekend’s finale with their fate in their own hands – and, importantly, their bonus point against Haringey means they do not need one against West London.
“It just gives us the knowledge that we can kick our penalties and just keep it tight rather than doing crazy things trying to score tries,” said Hynes.
“Out of the lads that will be playing on Saturday, I think 11 or 12 are the same guys that were here last season, so I think they’ll realise what’s at stake and what the feeling’s like walking off the pitch having not done the business, so I’m hoping that will drive us on.
“I only really see that as a positive factor. The game at Watford last season was the best game of rugby we played all year. We gave them a right pasting on their pitch.
“If it was a different result last season then maybe [I might be worried] but I’m hoping we can just carry on and continue to play our rugby, and we should be ok.
“We’ve got a good core, we’re consistently pulling in good new players and the actual stature of the club is starting to improve again.
“I think it will only be good for the club and for the area if we’re in a higher league next season.”
Elsewhere, Hampstead suffered a 31-13 home defeat against league leaders Fullerians in London North West Division Two, while UCS Old Boys went down 76-5 at home against London Welsh Amateurs in Herts/Middlesex Division One.