After a big loss the previous week, Hammers turned up at a cold and wet Hurlingham Park knowing that a win was much needed before heading into Christmas. With a good warm-up completed, the boys took to the field to the familiar cries of ‘Our House’ from a certain Old Ham, Matt Kelly, back from Australia for the Christmas break.
Starting strongly is something Hammers teams traditionally don’t do very well, and sure enough Hammers found themselves under pressure straight away from some strong running from a big Grasshoppers pack. This strong carrying up front meant Hammers were under pressure in their own half, and with any kicks being returned at pace by a quick Grasshoppers back three it was not long before they opened the scoring in the corner. One try quickly became two and Hammers found themselves 10-0 after the first 15 minutes.
A response was needed, and that was exactly what we got with the Hammers forwards starting to come into their own. Strong carrying from Tony Rees, James Watson and front row duo of JP and Si Khalil won Hammers a penalty and the ball was duly dispatched to the corner. Tom Broadway proceeded to win the line-out, as he did brilliantly all day, and from there the maul was set. From on the 22, the Hammers forwards proceeded to roll all the way over the line with Matt Kelly gleefully touching down at the back for a score that the forwards will remember for a long long time!
Following the restart, Hammers won another penalty in midfield, and the ball was once again fired towards the corner. The maul wasn’t quite so efficient this time, but Hammers were camped on the Grasshoppers 5 metre line. Si Khalil went close only to be held up, but when the ref blew for another penalty, Watson tapped quickly and piled over bringing the scores level.
Following halftime, Hammers again came out of the blocks slowly, allowing Grasshoppers to register the first points of the second half with another try bringing the scores to 15-10.
Hammers then managed to get some good field position and were deep into the Grasshoppers 22. From a strong scrum, a loose ball was gathered by Matt Baddeley who crashed over only to be held up. However, on the back of another dominant scrum from the Hammers pack, hooker Rees collected the ball and went over under the posts, this time converted by Chris Jager and Hammers had gone into a 17-15 lead.
From then, Hammers felt they had the momentum and really had to make it count. A big defensive shift led to Grasshoppers getting pegged back and then finding themselves in their own 22 looked to run it out. Joey Grahame read what was happening brilliantly giving himself the simplest of passes to pick off and race away for the simplest of tries, celebrating like he’d just scored the winner in the World Cup Final!
Grasshoppers looked deflated by conceding such a try, and then straight from the restart Watson broke numerous tackles and somehow sprinted from his own 22 only to be tackled just short of the Grasshoppers line! It was a brilliant run, and he managed to pop the ball up to Jager to touch down and give Hammers a 31-15 lead, but plenty more stick was to come Watsons way post match for not managing to make it himself!
Bonus point secured for Hammers, but the game was by no means secure just yet. Grasshoppers bounced back well from the setback of conceding three tries and enjoying some rare second half time in the Hammers 22, some strong pick and go’s from their forward pack ensured they got over the whitewash again leaving an 11 point deficit with 10 minutes to play. 31-20.
Hammers didn’t let this affect them and some strong phase play in midfield led them into the Grasshoppers 22. While trying to spread the ball wide quickly, there was a late hit on Baddeley which meant a penalty right in front of the posts. Jager duly kicked the three points on offer and that was to be that, with Hammers running out 34-20 winners, and heading into Christmas with a very important bonus point win.
Man of the match was James Watson for his try, strong carrying, and brilliant run to set up Jagers try, while tin man was Si Khalil for being held up twice!