Hendon kick off 2015 with victory over Watford at Saracens’ Allianz Park
- Credit: Archant
Hendon kicked off the new year on Saracens’ pitch at Allianz Park, and their Premiership-level surroundings inspired them to a 33-16 victory over Watford, which kept them in third place in Herts/Middlesex Division Two.
Hendon’s first and second teams were both given the opportunity to play on neighbouring Sarries’ artificial field. And, having watched the second string overcome Old Ashmoleans 32-0 in a merit game, the senior side made it a doubly successful day.
John-Paul Cremin touched down in each half, and Terry Gilbride and Mike Evans-Jones also went over the whitewash, while Cian Hynes kicked 13 points.
The league has been restructured this season and, for the first time, the division will be split at the end of this month, with the top six sides facing each other for a second time and battling for promotion, while the bottom eight take part in a cup knock-out tournament.
Hendon’s victory on Saturday – and bonus point – took them eight points clear of seventh-placed Old Isleworthians with two games to go as they bid to secure a place in the top six before the split.
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The Dons spent most of the first half on the back foot, defending against Watford’s heavier pack, but their first foray into the visitors’ half resulted in a penalty, which Hynes converted to earn a 3-0 lead.
And, when Lee Linale put the hosts back into opposition territory, Mike McCarthy cut in and found Cremin, who went over out wide with the first try of the match.
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The two sides exchanged penalty kicks, and another 15-minute spell of pressure from Watford was eventually rewarded as they crossed the line, but Hynes’ third penalty gave the home side a 14-8 lead at the break.
The visitors were on the offensive again after the break, testing the Dons defence time and again, and it took a fine tackle from last man Adam Johnson to halt his opposing winger.
After 20 minutes of pressure, Watford only had a penalty to show for it – and Hendon moved away with two tries.
Hynes’ long kick out of defence across the field was read by Evans-Jones, who collected it on Watford’s 10-metre line and put Cremin in for his second score.
Tommy Middleton came off the bench to add momentum in the pack as Watford tired, and Gilbride crashed over from a five-metre maul while Hynes converted to put Hendon 26-11 up with 10 minutes left.
Watford hit back with their own try five minutes from time, boosting their hopes of a bonus point at least, but captain Ger O’Donoghue marshalled the Dons defence to ensure they got no closer – and Evans-Jones had the last word, collecting another crossfield kick from Hynes and this time finishing himself from 40 yards for a converted try.