Hampstead overcome Belsize Park in derby duel and now prepare for top-of-the-table showdown
PUBLISHED: 16:19 12 December 2016
Hampstead emerged triumphant in their derby duel with Belsize Park on Saturday - and they will finish the calendar year with a top-of-the-table showdown against Old Haberdashers this coming Saturday.
Hampstead, the joint league leaders, sat just one place and six points ahead of Belsize before the kick-off in Regent’s Park - but their 36-6 victory has now taken them 11 points clear of their local rivals, who have been beaten by the top two teams in succession.
Alex Brookes scored the opening try in the very first minute and, although Jeremy Burton then kicked BP into a 6-5 lead with two penalties, those were the hosts’ only points of the day.
Dan Dimoline crossed the whitewash for Hampstead and captain Andy McEwen, Arthur Haynes and Will Dodds then followed suit before Dimoline ran in his second try and kicked his third successful conversion.
Hampstead’s head coach Peter Breen told Ham&High Sport: “I looked at Belsize Park’s history and I think their biggest loss in the last few years was by 15 points, so it was quite a loss.
“It pretty much went how I imagined it might. I thought they would play round-the-corner rugby because that’s what got them promoted, and they did, but we knew how to stop it every time.
“Looking at them and what they’ve done previously, when they get promoted they don’t go up twice in a row. They kind of learn and adapt, and I think they’ll do that again.
“When you come up against the top four or five teams in this league people are much more physical, the players are stronger and they won’t let you play that kind of rugby.
But I think they’ll just adapt to it and do really well again and beat everyone from third or fourth down.
“We kind of knew what was coming and I’m really happy with how we prepared for it and how we executed our plan.
“They were a fantastic bunch. It was nice to see Zach [Webb, Belsize Park’s director of rugby] and everybody went back to the bar afterwards. It was a really good advert for rugby – on the pitch and off it.”
Webb added: “Hampstead are a good side - very well drilled - and a nice bunch of people. We had some structural deficits which made us struggle, but overall we didn’t do ourselves justice. We eagerly await the return.”
Newly-promoted Belsize Park, who were the last team in the division to suffer a defeat, have now dropped to fourth place in the table after being overtaken by HAC –who they host on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Hampstead remain level with Old Haberdashers at the summit – seven points ahead of HAC – and they now visit their primary title rivals on a weekend when the top four sides all face each other.
“We’ve played the fifth-placed and third-placed teams in our last two games and now we’re up against the top team so they all get bigger as they go on,” said Breen.
“It’s a game we go into with no nerves really. We’re not playing that style where we’ll regret it if we lose, we’re just having a go. I’ve got a good feeling but I’ve no doubt that they have too.
“Belsize Park told us they had a few key people missing against Old Habs and they only lost by 10 points.
“Pride comes before a fall but we’re confident and that’s a really healthy thing if you get the balance right. We’ve only dropped six points out of a possible 55 and you’ve got to be playing well to do that.
“I think after Saturday it will be between three teams for the title - whoever loses out of HAC and Belsize Park won’t win the league. They could still come second and they could still get above us but I think their game is a sudden-death game in terms of the title and promotion.
“If Old Habs beat us by a convincing score then I can’t see them dropping many more points - but I can deal with that. We’ve been playing really well and if we lose then we lose, but let’s see how it goes.”