Hampstead coach: There's a growing feeling that we can win the league
PUBLISHED: 07:00 19 January 2017
Head coach Peter Breen says there is a growing feeling at Hampstead that the club can win the league and secure promotion after Saturday's results took them to the top of the table.
Old Haberdashers were in first place in London Division Two North West at the start of the weekend, but they lost 15-5 away against third-placed HAC, while Hampstead thumped Welwyn 58-0 at home.
Pete Wood crossed the line three times, while Alex Brookes went over twice – and, in addition to a penalty try, there were further scores from Jonty Hallett, Ben Fehnert, Craig Harper and Ed Doe, who also kicked four conversions.
Hampstead now find themselves in pole position with eight games left. However, there are just three points separating the top three sides – and next it is Hampstead’s turn to visit HAC, who won the reverse fixture 21-20 on the Heath in October.
“I didn’t expect to see us go top, and it feels very different to when we were top last time,” Breen told Ham&High Sport.
“That was after three games, and we only stayed there for a couple of weeks before losing to HAC. There was something false about that position at the time, but with eight games to go it becomes extremely real.
“I’ve been trying to keep a lid on the ambition – and we do take it every game or each half at a time – but now there’s a feeling of ‘actually we could do this’.
“I’ve never really had that in my mind, that we would do it – I just thought we’d have a great season. But now we’re a few good results away from being very close, with HAC being one of those games.
“If you look at Harrow and Harpenden’s results, they’re two sides that improve in the second half of the season so they won’t be easy matches – they have big forwards who do well in the mud.
“But I know from the attendance at our training sessions, the demands to be selected and the way people are playing in the second team the momentum that’s going. It adds some extra spice to training. We had a really good turn-out last week and the second team played at home on Saturday as well and won 45-0, so both teams are in pretty good form.”
Saturday’s hosts HAC have won nine of their last 10 games, overcoming each of the other top four sides – Hampstead, Belsize Park and now Old Haberdashers – along the way.
Breen continued: “They’re got some really good players and a very unusual pitch which is difficult to win on. It’s very narrow and you can get caught out if you try to play with the wrong game plan.
“We did that a couple of years ago and since then we’ve worked out how to play there, and actually we do better at HAC than we do when we’re at home against them. It’s another game to really look forward to. It’s exciting.
“We’ve got a little bit of breathing space. We can play for a draw or keep it close, while other teams have got to try to beat us, which is a massive help – and in Ed Doe we’ve got someone who can kick 40m, which changes the dynamics of the game.”
Meanwhile, Fourth-placed Belsize Park secured a 26-18 home win over Harpenden on Saturday and moved 13 points clear of their fifth-placed foes, but they lie 10 points behind HAC.