After an uphill start to the season, Hammers 4th XV took the field at Fortress Hurlingham eager for a first league win against a firmly mid-table Belsize Park.
After a rusty warm up, deputy-deputy captain Andrew ‘Tilly’ Tilbrook fired up his troops and Hammers got off to a solid start. Following a couple of unsteady scrums, the forwards regained confidence through Bob Davies and James Watson’s beautifully orchestrated line out routine, providing a platform for Brazilian winger Mark Bishop to dot down two early tries to put the 4s 10 points ahead within the first 15 minutes. Fast distribution through the 9-10-12 combination of Myers, Eldredge and Jager, supported by sustained pressure from the forward pods, opened up the Belsize defence for two further tries and Hammers walked off at half time with a healthy 25-point lead.
The fun really started in the second half…in the space of ten minutes, Adam Nixon was penalised for some unintelligible chat to the referee, Colin McDonald uncharacteristically got angry and Abe Knight, moments after an impassioned speech to the team about cutting out Sonny Bill style offloads, kindly popped the ball into the hands of a grateful Belsize centre who promptly brought his team back into the game. A second well worked Belsize try piled on the pressure further, alleviated slightly by Bishop rounding off his hat-trick. Another two Belsize tries followed which the author can’t really remember due to being in a shame spiral after two hideous dropped catches (see Tin Man section for further details), and Hammers started to feel the momentum shift.
Reinforcements were brought on to spark some life into the team and Hammers started to take control again, with replacement fly-half David Franklin putting the home side back in a commanding position before promptly opening up his face. Winding down the clock with a ten point cushion seemed too easy, and so Chris Jager attempted to take the head off a Belsize player and consequently took a breather for ten minutes at the referee’s insistence. The 14 remaining Hammers rallied and kept their structures to close out the game and record a first league win this season.
Man of the match – Mark Bishop
Tin Man – Bob Davies for twice dropping the ball in seemingly no-pressure situations
Honourable mentions – Abe Knight for gifting a Belsize try, Chris Jager for his time in the bin, Tim Murray for only managing 10 minutes
Debut – Chris Appleyard