The 3rd XV travelled to a cold, wet and windy Regents Park on the first weekend of November to take on Belsize Park, a club which recalling victories in recent memory has proven hard for a host of Hammers sides.
However, having gone five from five so far in the league, the boys welcomed the prospect of looking to extend their undefeated run against a formidable opposition.
The pre-game chat from Steve “I thought he’d stepped down as Captain?” Harris (15) about how the game was going to be a physical arm wrestle proved telling. The wet ball and muddy surface saw Belsize trying to outmuscle their physically smaller opposition through their forward pack both at set-piece and around the park. However, despite the size difference, the Hammers refused to be intimidated and the beginning of what would become one of the best defensive performances was sparked into life by a colossal hit on the Belsize number 8 by Nick “Tweed is my favourite colour” Dunn (2).
With Belsize unable to break the red, blue and white wall that faced them they were forced to kicking possession to the Hammers backs who, led by Marshall “Tennents is the nectar of the gods” MacLeod (10) at fly-half, caused problems with ball in hand all day.
With 15 minutes played the match was scoreless, but despite Hammers set-piece being under pressure, the boys felt they had the upper hand and knew a mistake from Belsize was coming. Two minutes later, after the Belsize forwards managed to carry into Hammers territory, great defensive line speed saw the Belsize park fly-half forced a telegraphed miss pass which Tyler “proving all Aussie’s are not as bad a Rylance” Stacey (13) gladly took and sprinted the length of the pitch to score. Harris converted making it 0 – 7 to Hammers after 20mins.
Five minutes later Hammers were over the line again thanks to two cheeky piece of play from Nick “no fighting on tour” Emmet (9), firstly calling for, and receiving, an off-load from the Belsize scum-half as he ran into contact, then proceeding to run around the ruck and then dummy and fend off the Belsize full back, who he met on his recent tour to Japan, to run giggling out-loud, over the line. Harris converted making it 0-14 to Hammers after 25mins.
Belsize didn’t take kindly to this score and showed why they have been a thorn to recent Hammers sides, upping their accuracy and physicality, moving possession deep into the Hammers 22.
For the next 10 minutes Belsize threw everything at Hammers, but the defence refused to buckle. Every man in a red jersey refused to concede yards, with front row Jack “you missed a spot” Williams (1) and Dougy “Aye, Tennents is the nectar of the gods” Maxwell (3) leading from the front alongside Simon “L for left, R for right” Irwin (6) and James “love an off-load” Lalor (8). However, with less the last play of the half Hammers unfortunately switched off for a split second and that was all Belsize’s skipper needed to hit a soft shoulder and score.
Half time score 7-14 to Hammers.
The chat at half-time was clear, the defence had been brilliant but Hammers should not think that this alone would be enough to secure the victory. Knowing the threat that a resurgent Belsize Park could pose the team agreed to the target of scoring the first points of the second half and to try hold onto the ball as much as possible in attack.
With this clear in their mind the second half got under way but the conditions tried their best to ruin the game. As the wind and rain got worse more mistakes from both sides crept into the game and it became more stop/start. Twenty minutes went past with no side scoring points, however with the scrum and line-out now being competitive from Hammers, and strong carriers still being offered by Tom “Sit down!” Mohan (5) and Hammers created chances but that final pass eluded what could have been a nerve settling score.
With the bench emptied and Dave “Benjamin button” Buchanan (20) now marshalling the forwards from scrum half, Hammers tightened up their accuracy and increased the tempo. Unable to live with the increased speed of ball, Belsize gave away a penalty bang in front of the sticks, just outside their 22 which Steve Harris signalled from the bench should be taken. However, with no recognised kicker on the pitch Marko “25mins late is early for him” Ravic (18) boldly stood forward and, saw his ugly looking kick just make it over the crossbar to make the score 7-17 to Hammers with 10 mins left to play.
Knowing they had to score twice Belsize threw everything at Hammers but, as had been the case for most of the game, couldn’t break down the resolute defence, epitomised by Sean “house party at mine” Burke (16) shooting out of the line and tackling the Belsize first receiver man and ball to kill what would have been a 4-on-2 overlap.
Full time 7 – 17 to Hammers, the boys’ sixth consecutive victory!
Next week it’s the turn of long-time rivals Ruislip to try and ruin the party, but a rare victory against Belsize will go a long way in boosting confidence.
MOM: Dougy Maxwell – full 80mins, scrum improved throughout the game and led by example in ‘body on the line’ defence.
DOD: Nick Emmet – for ‘fighting’ with the Belsize full-back, who he skinned in this game, the night before the World Cup final in a bar in Tokyo.