Hendon gearing up for pivotal promotion showdown against Watford

Hendon captain Cian Hynes on the offensive. Pic: Paolo Minoli

Hendon captain Cian Hynes on the offensive. Pic: Paolo Minoli - Credit: Archant

Hendon are gearing up for a pivotal promotion clash against Watford on Saturday, with captain Cian Hynes admitting a home defeat would almost certainly end his side’s challenge.

Watford are sitting in the second promotion spot in Herts/Middlesex Division Two, while third-placed Hendon are seven points behind with a game in hand – although they feel they should have an extra five points and have appealed to the league, following a controversially postponed match against Haringey Rhinos.

Either way, a victory for the visitors on Saturday would take them clear of their hosts with two games left, while a triumph for the Dons would leave their fate in their own hands.

“The winner will have a good footing in terms of the league positions,” Hynes told Ham&High Sport. “Whoever wins is going to have the ascendancy going into the last two rounds.

“Anything could happen in this league but surely [if we lose], with a couple of games to go, it would have a hugely negative impact.

“They were strong when we played them first time around this season [and lost 22-6]. The conditions on the day weren’t great and they reacted a whole lot better to it.

“We played them twice last year and we came away with two victories. They got us on the bounce in November but with a bit of luck we’ll be able to turn it around and get the points this time.

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“My message will be about trying to keep cool heads more than anything – trying not to let the occasion of a big game get to anyone. I’ll be telling the lads to go out and enjoy themselves and go and play some interesting rugby.”

Hynes feels both sides are good enough to go up to Herts/Middlesex Division One, adding: “I think at this stage a lot of it comes down to what team each of the clubs puts out on the day and things like that – but both teams played well against the sides that went up last year [Hillingdon Abbots and London French] and those guys seem to be doing quite well this season.”

One worry for Hendon is that they have only played one league game in the last month – which was back on February 13 – and that they may therefore be a bit short of practise.

They were scheduled to face Haringey Rhinos on February 20 but the match was called off and, while the Dons were initially awarded a home win – leaving them just two points outside the promotion spots – that has since been rescinded and the five points taken away from them, with the match being rescheduled for March 12 instead.

Hendon are appealing that decision, arguing they were prepared to play the game on the day but Haringey refused – but, either way, their players may be a little rusty at the start of this weekend’s vital promotion showdown.

“Unfortunately at our end we haven’t been able to get too much game preparation because of the Six Nations starting and people having trips away planned,” said Hynes.

“That would always be a concern going up to a pretty big game like this. There is always a fear that you’re going into it undercooked, but we can only hope for the best.”

Meanwhile, a second-string Hendon side was beaten 21-10 away against Old Millhillians in the quarter-finals of the Middlesex Federation Cup on Saturday.

Wingers Adam Johnson and Robert Nunez both touched down to give the visitors a 10-3 lead in the opening 25 minutes, but the hosts hit back in kind to go 13-10 up going into the break – and Hendon were then reduced to 14 men by injuries in the front row, forcing them to accept uncontested scrums.

Centre Chris Kayingi nearly got over the whitewash but was stopped just short, and instead Old Millhillians extended their lead with a penalty.

The Dons were only six points down and battled for a winning score until the very end, but a loose pass enabled one of their opponents to run the length of the field and put the result beyond doubt.