Hampstead coach welcomes new local rivalry with Belsize Park ahead of derby showdown
PUBLISHED: 08:00 08 December 2016
Head coach Peter Breen says Hampstead have been driven on to improve by Belsize Park's progress, and he believes a new local rivalry will help to get the best out of his side as the two clubs prepare to meet in Saturday's derby clash.
Belsize have been promoted three times in the last six years and, having joined Hampstead in London Division Two North West this campaign, they are already eyeing another move up the pyramid.
BP have won eight of their 10 league games so far and lie third, six points off the top – but Hampstead are also enjoying a fine season of their own and are level with leaders Old Haberdashers at the summit.
“The reason we’re doing so much better this year is because of Belsize Park,” Breen told Ham&High Sport ahead of this weekend’s clash in Regent’s Park. “It’s an old adage in business – if you want to do well you need a rival.
“When they came up this year there was actually a discussion at our AGM – ‘should we concentrate more on the first team?’ A lot of energy’s been spread around the club and we’re doing well in different areas apart from the first team.
“We’ve still been doing well in that respect but not challenging to win the league, and Belsize’s rise actually concentrated our efforts, so we owe them really.
“Previously, if you look back, our local rivals would have been UCS Old Boys and Finchley, but they’ve fallen away.
“Having a rival and competing for players is not necessarily a bad thing, and some of Hampstead’s best results in the 15 years have been when they’ve had a rival. To have two teams fighting for trophies at this level, it’s definitely healthy, and it’s great for rugby locally.
“It’s certainly really good for logistics – you can walk or just get on the bus and go to the game, rather than travelling one and a half hours out to windy Hertfordshire or whatever it is.”
While Hampstead and Belsize Park are neighbouring clubs they have been in different leagues for a number of years, so Breen has had to do some homework.
“I only know what I’ve heard from a few other coaches and spectators at away games,” he said. “But we have a fairly good idea of how they play, and I’ve read some of their comments about what they do in defence, and their kick chase.
“Our teams at lower levels have played against them and they said their defence is absolutely excellent with brilliant organisation.
“It’s obvious that the league below isn’t much different to this one, and winning becomes a habit.
“If you want one thing for player retention, win a lot of games, and that’s what they’ve been doing. They’re not one of those teams that’s going to come up and run away with this league but they can be in the top four, without a doubt.
“Where might Saturday’s game be won and lost? In the scrum. I still think that if we get enough ball we’ll win any game in the league and the scrum’s doing well, but I know they’ll target us there. Me saying that makes no difference to what they’re going to do, but it will make a difference to our squad selection.”
Belsize Park’s director of rugby Zach Webb said: “It’s the first meeting for many years. It would have been a long time back that we last played each other.
“We tend not to focus on other teams, we’re all about ourselves. When you’re regularly getting promoted you’ve got to play against teams you’ve never played before, so the only thing you can do then is focus on yourself.
“Frankly, we believe we have the best rugby style and we believe we have some of the best players around. Then the next element is managing our own expectations around that - not pressurising ourselves, and playing to our strengths.
“I think we went a bit wayward a couple of weeks ago [in the defeat to Old Haberdashers] but if we play at the level we know we can play at then we don’t really care who we play against.
“The only thing is it’s nice to be playing our neighbours. It means you don’t have to travel far and we can all drink together afterwards. It’s lovely for us to be able to play a team down the road from us.
“We’re looking forward to getting to know them – hopefully not for too long though, because hopefully we’re getting promoted! No doubt they’ll probably say the same thing.”