Belsize Park captain shrugs off defeat in title decider and targets another promotion
PUBLISHED: 14:21 26 April 2016 | UPDATED: 14:40 26 April 2016
Belsize Park missed out on the league title on Saturday – but captain George Hazlett is delighted with the club’s third promotion in five years and is already eyeing another one next season.
The Regent’s Park outfit secured a top-two finish earlier in the month, leaving them to battle London Nigerian for the crown over the final three games, and the rivals went head to head in a decisive clash on the final day.
Unfortunately, Belsize’s campaign finished as it began – with a defeat against the newly-crowned champions – but they have nonetheless won 19 of their 22 league fixtures and finished 18 points clear of third-placed Hackney.
For Hazlett, that proves his side have outgrown London North-West Division Three – and he is taking inspiration from Fullerians, who narrowly beat BP to promotion last season and have gone on to win the Division Two title this term.
“It’s been an absolutely fantastic season,” he told Ham&High Sport. “We started off in the first game of the year saying ‘this is the position we want to get ourselves into’ and we did – we’re going up.
“We had a good chat with the London Nigerian players after the game. Both sides were looking forward to this match a lot because we could actually test ourselves.
“We’ve had games this year when we’ve won massively and it’s not always that fun, so it was a proper, good old struggle with these guys. It was a good battle and we look forward to playing them next year.
“I will be pushing to get promoted again next year - that’s where we need to be. That’s easy to say now without playing any of the teams in the league, but that’s what we’ve got our sights on next year.
“When we last played Fullerians [last March] we drew with them, and in the other match we lost by three points. I don’t know if they’ve got any more new players, but to see them go up to the next division and win it, that gives us a big boost for next season.
“I think the team’s in a pretty good spot. For the first team, I don’t think we’ll be changing it too much, although we have to wait and see who’s going to come back.”
Hazlett missed Saturday’s title decider with London Nigerian after suffering a collar bone injury in Belsize’s previous game against Old Actonians.
Jeremy Burton kicked four first-half penalties to give the visitors a 12-3 lead at the break, but the hosts hit back with two tries within 10 minutes of the restart – and a penalty then extended their lead to 18-12.
BP responded as Jamie Niven finished off a driving maul to put his side 19-18 up with 10 minutes left, but there was late agony as Nigerian went over in the corner to win the game and grab first place.
“It would have been nice to win the title at the end, but that happens sometimes and we’re probably better for it,” said Hazlett. “It was the hardest match we played all year, the boys took a lot out of it and we’ll be better for it next season.
“The scores were going backwards and forwards for the last half an hour of the match and then the last try came with just four minutes to go. We were then attacking for the last four minutes and camped in their 22, but we basically ran out of time.
“It there had been another five minutes it might have been different, but they [London Nigerian] played really well - they were very sharp.
“You couldn’t be disappointed after watching that game. The boys threw everything at it and there were some sore bodies afterwards - it was a proper test. “We were probably beating them in some parts of the game and they were beating us in others. At the end of it they did more things right than us, but we didn’t do anything wrong. It was a good match.”