Belsize Park produce their 'best ever performance' - and captain Hazlett warns there's even more to come
PUBLISHED: 08:00 03 November 2016
Division Two new boys Belsize Park have moved to the top of the table as they chase their third promotion in four years - and director of rugby Zach Webb believes the Regent's Park outfit produced their best ever display on Saturday, while captain George Hazlett has warned there is even more to come.
BP, who moved up from Division Three last term, have made a storming start to life in their new league, winning six of their opening seven fixtures and drawing the other, which leaves them as the only unbeaten team.
Saturday’s 41-7 home win came against a Hammersmith & Fulham side that finished second last season, and it took them above Old Haberdashers and into top spot on points difference.
“That was our best ever performance, playing a side that would have been one of the favourites for the league,” Webb told Ham&High Sport. “It was very disciplined, with a very low error rate, and we were able to pick up a level of pressure that the other teams just struggle to live with. I’ve never seen us so composed.”
Hooker Marcus Pulefale scored the opening try after a line-out maul, while Jeremy Burton converted - and although Belsize’s defence was uncharacteristically sloppy at the restart, allowing the visitors to level, those were the only points they conceded and they gradually ran away with the game.
The hosts forced four successive line-out mauls on Hammersmith’s five-metre line and the pressure told as one of their opponents was sin-binned and prop Eric Trautenmiller bundled his way over the line.
Burton added the extras before kicking a penalty to give Belsize a 17-7 lead at the break, and they continued to make their numerical advantage count after the restart as number eight Will Ville scored another converted try from the back of a scrum.
Ville touched down again after a fine run from centre Jack Marples, and winger James Russell then went over in the corner, while Burton added a final penalty to rack up a 16-point personal tally.
The bad news for Belsize’s rivals is that, according to captain Hazlett, his side are only just getting up to full speed.
“I think the game at the weekend was the first one where we felt we played close to our best,” he said. “There was just a bit of consistency in what we were trying to do.
“It’s hard when we train once a week, with not everyone there all the time, to make the things that happen on the training pitch actually come to life during the game.
“Maybe it’s just taken a bit of time for us to actually go into a game wanting to do something and then be able to follow through with it.
“We’ve started changing our mindset in defence, trying to get it to a point now where we’re winning the ball back through our defence, really smothering them – it’s something we’ve been working hard on and that’s really starting to show now.
“The boys are really up for it when we don’t have the ball and we’re trying to get it back as quickly as possible by either blitzing them or chasing from a kick. That’s something that stood out for us on Saturday.
“It’s just got to a point now where some of us have been playing together for two or three seasons and you work out what each other does - you work out who’s going to go to the ball, who’s going to clear, who’s going to make the tackle, who’s going to go wide. It’s little things like that.
“It’s a lot of hard work that’s gone into it this far but it’s exciting. We didn’t really know what to expect coming into the league, but the boys have been working hard, putting in good performances and things are working for us so we can’t really complain. We came into this league wanting to get promoted again and, seven games in, we’re trying to do that.”
Belsize are facing new opponents every weekend but Hazlett feels that unfamiliarity may have been an advantage so far.
“We played Welwyn a few years ago – they got promoted before us so we knew what they were about - and London Nigerian went up with us last season, while some of the other boys have played Harrow,” said the skipper.
“Other than that you don’t know what each team’s going to bring, which is exciting in a good way because you just go into a game thinking about yourself and not really worrying about the opposition.
“Maybe that’s helped us a bit because if you know you’re coming up against someone that you might not beat then you’re probably not going to play very well.”
Belsize will take on Tabard and Enfield Ignatians in their next two games but they then face the sides that currently sit level with them at the top - Old Haberdashers and Hampstead - in succession.
“I did have a look at when those games are coming up and I see they’re back to back,” said Hazlett. “I think some of the boys might have their eye on those weekends because we’re all at the top and no-one wants to lose, so it will be interesting to see the results of those games.”