Rugby returns to Copthall after 18-month lockdown hiatus

Hendon players celebrate the victory after Hendon RFC vs Cranbrook RFC, RFU Junior Vase Rugby Union

Hendon players celebrate the victory after Hendon RFC vs Cranbrook RFC, RFU Junior Vase Rugby Union at Allianz Park on 14th March 2020 - Credit: David Simpson/TGS Photo

Hendon returned to action for the first game of full contact rugby after 18 months of lockdown to win 17-14 over Stockwood Park.

Although other formats of rugby have been allowed throughout the pandemic, scrums and mauls have been banned, leaving forwards having to play like their counterparts in the backs.

This friendly match against Stockwood Park from Luton, who play in an equivalent Midlands Division league to Hendon, gave head Coach, Phil Smith, the opportunity of looking at new players for his side and positional opportunities to his “old” squad, with a number of players still not available.

"Whilst Stockwood Park played a first team squad against us I used this match to give as many players from both first and second teams the opportunity of match experience against quality opposition," Smith said. 

Although a friendly, the match was very competitive with Hendon’s defensive play excelling in the first period as they faced a downhill onslaught from the heavier Stockwood Park forwards, who scored their first try after just five minutes of play to put them 0-7 ahead.

From the restart Hendon pushed upfield but handling errors allowed Stockwood Park to kick for safety.

Almost at the half-time break, a long penalty kick by Cian Hynes from the Hendon 10 to the Park five-metre line saw Rossa Dooley collect from the lineout and crash through the Park defence to score a Hynes-converted try to draw level at 7-7.

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Almost immediately into the second period Stockwood Park set up a superb backline move to score a converted try to go 7-14 in front.

The match continued to be evenly balanced, with winger Will Theaker requiring a number of Park players to stop him while creating holes in the away outfit defence.

From another move created in the closing 10 mins by front row forward David Jenkins, Dooley collected on the 22 to the five, with Chris Kiyingi in support to score for Hendon and Hynes converting to level the scores at 14-14.

Hendon were now the dominant outfit with new signing Dragos breaking the tiring Park defence, but the full back was penalised for a deliberate knock-on and Hynes took the three points with little time to the final whistle.