Pauling scores twice on his debut as Belsize Park survive a scare and close in on top spot

Howard Pauling (right) had a debut to remember, scoring twice as Belsize Park maintained their push

Howard Pauling (right) had a debut to remember, scoring twice as Belsize Park maintained their push for promotion. Pic: - Credit: Archant

Winger Howard Pauling touched down twice on his debut but Belsize Park endured a scare against Datchworth and needed a winning try from Richard Wilson to maintain their perfect record in 2015.

After a strong start, Belsize trailed 24-23 in the second half, having also lost the reverse fixture earlier in the season.

But Wilson went over the line to secure a 30-24 victory, keeping the hosts in second place in London North-West Division Three - and with leaders Fullerians suffering a home defeat, Park are now just four points off the top.

The hosts exerted immediate pressure from the kick-off, and some tight play from the forwards followed by slick handling from Miran Serdarevich put Rich Turner over the line within two minutes for an unconverted try.

BP then kicked a penalty into the corner and captain Tom House – the man of the match – combined with George Hazlett in a catch and drive move, with Michael Downes steadying the back of the maul before Pauling weaseled his way through the heaving mass of forwards to score.

Belsize continued to push forward and John Corellis embarked on a barnstorming run, while Wilson threw a big pass wide to the in-form Serdarevich, who scored his sixth try since the Christmas break.

However, the back line seemed to switch off as Datchworth’s mazy runners came off their wings and made ground, leaving Ben Parker with a lot to do and resulting in three tries and two conversions which gave the visitors a 19-18 lead at the break.

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The away teams smelt blood and bombarded the Belsize line, but the introduction of Alex Lee made a huge impact as he won a succession of penalties at the breakdown.

And, although Wilson’s audacious tap and go inside his own 22 initially left his skipper fuming, Parker smashed his opposite man into touch to win a line-out which resulted in a second try for Pauling in the corner and a 23-19 advantage.

Datchworth responded with another converted score and Belsize’s impressive home record – they are undefeated in Regent’s Park since September 2013 – was under real threat.

But a big hit from the mercurial Rob Hooper won the ball back and Nick Lewis rampaged his way upfield before House, standing in at scrum-half, distributed the ball swiftly to Wilson.

He had men outside him but found a gap through the scrambling defence to glide over under the posts from 20 yards out, before adding the conversion and securing a fifth successive victory.

House said: “You learn a lot more about yourselves from the tight games than the easy ones. We know the boys can play but they were remarkable in keeping their composure, having let slip a significant lead against a strong pack and a back line that really fancied it from anywhere on the park.”

Coach Andy Barrington added: “It was a match that could have gone either way and Belsize just finished the stronger. Some weak defence on the day let us down for large periods, but in the end we were delighted to gain revenge for our loss earlier in the season.”