Hampstead coach: Hallett's return has brought the best out of deadly winger Ajayi
PUBLISHED: 13:50 22 November 2016 | UPDATED: 14:43 22 November 2016
Hampstead head coach Peter Breen feels Jonty Hallett's return has helped to bring the best out of winger Olufemi Ajayi, who scored four tries in Saturday's 52-7 home win over basement boys Stockwood Park in London Division Two North West.
Ajayi set the tone for the match when he opened the scoring inside the first two minutes, and he ended up touching down twice in each half on the Heath, earning the man of the match award for the second game in a row.
Breen feels Hallett’s return to action at centre was a key factor, while new recruit Tom Aiken also shone at fly-half, having captained relegated Staines last campaign and been registered with London Division One South side Brighton earlier this season.
“AJ’s a very casual guy, he’s very laid back and you have to get him fired up, but he seems to really want to play well all the time,” Breen told Ham&High Sport.
“Jonty Hallett came back this week - he’d only played 20 minutes before this game – and he kind of brings out the best in AJ.
“I think he gives him confidence or inspires him. I don’t know what it is! He just knows he’s got to get the ball quickly to AJ and he does.
“We’ve also got a new fly-half. We got him in pretty quickly because of Will Pettit’s injury, and because Arthur Haynes wasn’t available – and he’s an extremely good fly-half.
“People just want to join us. I’ve never been at a club like it- someone gets injured and someone else just turns up and takes their place. The location helps and it all adds up.”
Ajayi broke the deadlock on Saturday as Hampstead went from one try-line to the other, and Alex Brookes added the conversion before touching down himself 10 minutes later.
Richard Farmer then suffered a fractured hand but, with captain Andy McEwen indisposed due to flu-like symptoms, the openside flanker bravely carried on.
Max Moncrieff extended the lead, crossing the whitewash after a driving maul, while Brookes added the extras again, and Dan Wigley then ran from the halfway line before Ajayi scored for the second time.
Hampstead led 33-0 at half-time and, although they conceded the first try of the second period, they scored three times more, with Ajayi doubling his tally for the day.
That completed the home side’s eighth victory from nine league games, and they remain level on points with leaders Old Haberdashers and one point ahead of Belsize Park, as the season enters a crucial period.
This Saturday Belsize host Haberdashers, while Hampstead visit fifth-placed Hammersmith & Fulham, who were runners-up last season.
Then, in the following round of fixtures on December 10, Hampstead take on Belsize Park – and the following weekend Hampstead travel to face Old Haberdashers.
“We’re just getting ready for these three games where we play the fifth, third and first-placed teams,” said Breen. “It’s getting serious, and the other teams will be feeling the same - Haberdashers and Belsize Park have also got to play two or three games now against the top five teams.
“My hunch is that the form team, with the results at the moment, is Haberdashers but a lot of it will come down to strength in depth, where I think Belsize Park might have the edge over the other sides - I think we’re somewhere in the middle between them.
“Form-wise I think we’re scoring more points than Belsize Park but they have slightly better strength in depth than us - and we have better strength in depth than Haberdashers, so let’s see what happens.
“You can’t rule out HAC either. They’re the only side that has stopped Belsize Park winning, and they beat us. They’ve played each of the top three sides and they’ve won one, lost one and drawn one so they’re definitely in with it.
“This week will tell whether Hammersmith & Fulham are in it too. They’ve taken two bad losses against top-four teams and if it happens again then obviously they’ve lost personnel because with the players they had last year you couldn’t score 50 points against them - it’s unheard of.
“But all teams have an expiry date at this level. A particular captain and a group of people go through a period and I’ve just got a feeling that they’ve lost some people – a lot of people.”