Star signings are giving Hampstead’s coach man management issues

Jonathan Hallett made his league debut for Hampstead in Saturday's victory over Welywn. Pic: Paolo M

Jonathan Hallett made his league debut for Hampstead in Saturday's victory over Welywn. Pic: Paolo Minoli - Credit: Archant

Hampstead’s head coach Peter Breen admits one of his biggest problems is keeping his squad happy after a new star signing, Jonathan Hallett, made his league debut in Saturday’s 38-14 home win over Welwyn.

Hampstead's Ben Sanderson (second from right) celebrates his opening score, which head coach Peter B

Hampstead's Ben Sanderson (second from right) celebrates his opening score, which head coach Peter Breen intends to enter into the Samsung Try of the Month competition. Pic: Paolo Minoli - Credit: Archant

Hampstead’s fourth victory from five league games in London North-West Division Two leaves them third in the table, just three points off the top - and the momentum is building, with their success attracting high-quality players.

Hallett has played for Coventry and Plymouth Albion in National League Division One, while another recent recruit Olufemi Ajayi – who works at the Royal Free Hospital - also played at that level with Leicester Lions.

Breen is thrilled to see Hampstead going from strength to strength but he is aware that for every new talent that arrives to boost the first team’s prospects there is someone who loses their spot – and the club’s progress is giving him a few headaches.

“A lot of people in our area have played at a very high standard and then given up at the age of 22 or 23,” he told Ham&High Sport

“One thing that will never attract players is saying ‘come down, we desperately need players’. But if you see good scores and good photographs in the paper and an attractive game of rugby then people will come.

“It’s all about momentum. Jonathan works with a guy who played for Newport Gwent Dragons [who play in the Guinness Pro12].”

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Breen laughed: “At this point now the rest of the players are saying to me ‘no we’ve had enough!’

“It’s kind of a problem that I address most Wednesday nights near the end of our training, to explain.

“I’ve coached teams that have been promoted and paradoxically you can end up being more unpopular in that club than you were at a club where the team was struggling – because you’ve got 15 people in the second team who don’t like you.

“They think you’ve made bad calls of judgement or they think it’s personal, which it never is. I just want the best team, and you have to manage that.

“They might be right, they might be the better players but you can easily have a side where you’re actually better than someone above you but he fits better into that team – which is really unfair if it’s happened to you.

“It is a lot about man managing those people because we really don’t want them to leave the club. You want to look after them but every week you disappoint them.”

Breen’s selections paid off on Saturday as Hampstead’s first XV continued their fine form on the Heath extension, recording 38 points – the highest score in the division on a day when the conditions added to the challenge.

The hosts were playing into a very strong wind in the first half were nonetheless went into the break with a 31-0 lead.

Ben Sanderson finished off a superb team try and captain Andy McEwen, Dan Dimoline, man of the match James Ferguson and Max Moncrieff also touched down before the break, while Dimoline kicked three conversions.

Rob Goode added another converted try in the second half but Hampstead’s attempts to extend their advantage were undermined as they fell foul of a referee who awarded 22 penalties and a penalty try against them, while sin-binning three of their players in a 10-minute period.

“This is the best team I’ve coached playing into the wind – we don’t find it a hindrance,” said Breen. “I think the wind represented a 15-point benefit. It was gale-force, blowing into our faces, and we turned round 31-0 up. At the time I felt we were on course for 60 to 80 points.

“I’m going to enter our first try for the Samsung Try of the Month award. We had the ball for the first three minutes from kick-off and scored a try after it had been touched by just about every player on the team.

“The first time they touched the ball was about a minute and a half later when they put it into the scrum, and we took a strike against the head and Andy McEwen picked it up and ran halfway up the field and scored under the posts. They were 14-0 down and they’d only put the ball into a scrum.

“In the second half we seemed to fall foul of the referee’s decision-making and were unable to understand what we were doing wrong.

“It was a frustrating afternoon in the end but with some great performances. Three of our last four halves have been brilliant and we’ve scored 30 points in each of those, against good sides.

“Our points difference is now the second best in the league – it’s climbed steadily over the past few weeks - and training is going fantastically well. It’s made a massive difference to the psyche of the players to train on an astroturf pitch and indoors.”