Belsize Park beat Hackney to establish 19-point cushion in promotion battle
PUBLISHED: 15:44 01 February 2016 | UPDATED: 15:44 01 February 2016
Belsize Park have increased their cushion inside the two promotion places to 19 points after triumphing 25-15 away against their nearest pursuers, Hackney, on Saturday.
Having also beaten their third-placed rivals in October’s meeting, Belsize’s top try scorer Ben Parker touched down twice, while captain George Hazlett and full-back Chris Lilly also crossed the whitewash.
It was Park’s ninth successive league victory and the 12th time in their 15 games this season that they have secured the bonus point for scoring four tries, keeping them level with London Nigerian at the top of the table.
Director of rugby Zach Webb said: “We’re always delighted to win against Hackney and a clean sweep for the season is special cause for celebration – but as far as the league and the season goes, the opposition are almost irrelevant now.
“We focus on our performance and if we play near our best we don’t believe anyone will stop us winning this league.”
Hackney earned three penalty kicks at goal in the early stages and converted the third of them to take the lead, but Belsize quickly responded with the opening try. A powerful maul led to profitable attacks out wide and Hazlett crashed through and stretched over the line.
Hackney missed another chance at goal while failing to capitalise on a couple of try-scoring opportunities by dropping the ball, and they were punished as Parker scored off the back of a scrum, with Jamie Irvine adding the extras.
Belsize led 12-3 at the break but they then allowed an opposing player to slip through their centre pairing and finish off a 40-metre run under the posts.
The conversion surprisingly missed the target and Mark Liebling showed Hackney how to do it at the other end with a penalty kick.
However, the visitors conceded another try against the run of play as a grubber kick was collected by the home side’s centre, who levelled the scores at 15-15.
Belsize reacted immediately, though, and increased pressure on the hosts’ defence resulted in Parker charging down a clearance kick to score, having managed the same feat in the previous game against Grasshoppers.
The forwards also found another gear and embarked on a series and pick-and-goes, with hooker Stewart Shaw making a couple of darting runs, and Lilly touched down in the corner to kill the game off.