Anticipation had been building through the week as the Hammers 2’s side began preparation for a double header (for the uneducated/unaware, this was a league and cup match in one) against Bishop’s Stortford III team (BS). The previous result of Hammers travelling the 31.85 miles (as the crow flies) to the BS ground saw blood and tears for Hammers where we lost heavily 36-7, this only fuelled the preparation and desire for revenge.
The Hammers were “fully prepped”/had mostly arrived by 12:30 ish as the jovial Australia Day cobwebs had been blown away (mostly) by those irresponsible enough to consume alcohol the night before game day. Any way I deviate from the purpose of this report, the match…
With BS arriving late due to the long trip, kick off was pushed back by 10 mins – a prime example of the gentry required to be a Hammer. At 14:10, with devilish wind and rain hammering (no pun intended) down on the yellow shirt of the French referee, he blew his whistle and we were off.
Hammers kicked off through the disintegrating boot of Eldridge, almost instantly winning the ball back through a BS knock on. The Hammers scrum was dominant from the off with the front row of Williams, Johnson and Conway rumbling their way towards the try line with arrogance that can only be described as front row swagger. We came close with Eddell running good lines in the centre, but this trip to the BS 22 was not to be fruitful.
BS began to battle their way out of their 22 until a loose loopy pass was intercepted by the bearded hooker Johnson. Showing his blistering pace, he trotted in from 25 metres out, a simple conversion in front of the sticks from Taylor W meant Hammers were leading 7-0.
A period of dominance from BS was to follow, they held on to the ball with effective use of a series of human cannon balls and battering rams with top tackles coming in from Fox, Rylance and familiar faces Roche and Pettitt. The BS barrage was too much to contain and saw Hammers slide to 7-14 down. Déjà vu of our previous trip to BS was at the forefront of all our minds, we had to move on.
Despite Thompson jumping 20 seconds early to try and catch the kick off, Hammer’s found a new foot hold in the game with Lucas making good metres, supported by the forwards continued domination at the set piece resulting in Conway scoring a sneaky try at the back of a maul. Taylor W slotted conversion number two and we were at 14-14.
HALF TIME – Score was tied 14-14
The second half began and the first five minutes showed both sides cancelling each other out with the only notable event being Taylor W getting smashed in the midfield with a tackle that can probably still be heard echoing around the sanctuary that is Hurlingham Park. Baxter showed he’s not just a pretty face as he continued to put his body on the line for the club making some great tackles. Still fuelled on adrenaline from the rib tickler Taylor W joined the forwards and managed to sneak himself a try from a pick and go! He added another 2 points taking his running total for the game to 11 as Hammers now led 21-14.
A passage of good play from Hammers saw Sheppard loop around and score in the right-hand corner. An almost impossible kick for Taylor W slid just outside the post making the score 26-14 Hammers. Sheppard’s glory was short lived as he was subbed off for the “experienced” Leith.
Hammers were sensible and opted to take the points as the referee awarded a penalty in front of the posts – need I say more Taylor W stepped up… and missed. Bane despite showing great pace (with his new boots on) didn’t quite manage to score but certainly gets a gold star for effort.
Victory was looking more likely as the Betfair exchange odds for a Hammers win moved to 1.27 (please gamble responsibly). These odds were only slashed further to 1.12 as Leith despite the paternal sleep deprivation stole the ball from a BS scrum and scored in the right corner. Cue Taylor W (again), with expectations wavering from a couple of misses those little stick legs built up some momentum and slotted it, Hammers lead extended 33-14.
With victory surely imminent, a momentary threat to the Hammers try line and an eye watering (he cried) boot to the eye for Rylance (he probably deserved it as well) BS stole themselves an unconverted consolation try. Hammers lead 33-19.
By this point the wind and rain were boring/freezing all involved and many looked as though they were waiting for the final whistle, but not Ralston who decided to rub more salt in the BS wounds by scoring a great try. Taylor W did his job and perhaps unsurprisingly with the pressure off slotted his kick. Hammers lead 40-19.
The final whistle blew, followed by cheers all round from the men in red, as this vengeful victory moves us to the top of the league and through the next round of the cup.
FULL TIME – Hammers win 40-19