Late drama as Belsize Park come from behind to record seventh successive victory
- Credit: Archant
League leaders Belsize Park came from behind inside the final four minutes to earn a 25-21 victory away at Old Millhillians, securing a seventh consecutive win in Herts/Middlesex One.
Corey Nash scored twice on his BP debut, while Mark Liebling touched down and converted himself in the second period – but the visitors were still trailing by one point in the final moments, before Liebling struck again to turn defeat into victory.
The pacesetters have now won eight of their nine league games this season – although the three teams immediately below them also won at the weekend, with the result that the top four sides are separated by just six points.
Belsize got off to a sluggish start as they returned to action after a week’s hiatus, and they conceded two soft tries in the first 15 minutes as they struggled to bring down the strong Millhill runners and organise their defence.
It was not until midway through the first half that BP managed to string some phases together. Strong running from Freddie House and the mercurial Seb Dunnett provided regular ball on the front foot, but the visitors were not clinical enough to sustain long periods of pressure.
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However, once a few phases were put together, OM’s discipline started to creak. Richard Wilson slotted his first penalty with ease and had a second shot from the corner which went agonisingly wide.
The first Belsize try came from strong running from mainstay Brent Hoekstra and quick ball from the effervescent scrum-half Nathan Ladd to the lion-hearted battering ram Zach Webb at first receiver on the blind side.
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Webb fixed two defenders and shipped the ball out to Tom House, who tapped it over to Nash – and he rounded his opposite winger and stepped past the full-back to take the ball in from 30 meters.
BP trailed 13-8 at half-time but their superiority in the set piece really started to take its toll in the second period, with strong scrummaging from Adam French and Nick Tyler, combined with Freddie House’s dynamic picking and driving from the base.
The Belsize line-out also functioned smoothly, with Adam Caines proving to be untouchable in the first half and the towering figure of George Hazlett taking over in the second. The catch and drive worked well from all areas of the park and the defensive line was very successful too.
Belsize battered the Millhillian line for the third quarter and go their reward when the ball was moved wide to stand-in full-back Nash, who managed to slide through the defence for his second score.
OMs were quick to press back, getting very close to crossing the try-line but having to make do with penalties instead.
That left BP 21-13 down but, having won their six previous games, they maintained their belief and pulled another try back as Sam Roberts recovered Liebling’s kick and popped it off to the same player, who narrowed the gap to one point at 21-20.
With four minutes left the game was finely in the balance, but the introduction of Ben Parker on the left wing added more guile out wide, and he proved to have a big impact.
Receiving the ball from Wilson, Parker ran 20 yards down the left wing and left Liebling with a one-on-one against his opposite number, with the paceman screaming past him and over the whitewash to put BP 25-21 ahead.
OMs fought valiantly, battering the Belsize line for the final moments. But, with tackling from Sam Bennett that would make Richie McCaw blush, the visitors held on to emerge triumphant once again.
Meanwhile, BP’s second team beat Ruislip’s second string and the Bulls (third XV) beat London French’s reserves. The club will be fielding five teams on Saturday, with the first team visiting basement boys Haringey Rhinos.