The away fixture at Hampstead provided the usual pre-match game of ‘where the f**k are their changing rooms’. Head coach Mark Jackson struggled with the search in particular, walking around the mansions of Hampstead aimlessly following dud directions from his senior players. He wouldn’t have been so late were he not slowed down by many of the residences’ security guards intervening, fearing the tracksuited Irishman was scouting out his next burglary target.
The early drama and reduced warm-up time helped to sharpen Hammersmith & Fulham’s focus, and the clinical warm-up that followed proved to be an early indicator of things to come.
So. First half.
Things didn’t get off to the best of starts, with one or the worst kick-offs in rugby history after Joel Carolan had given it the big “going deep” chat instead dribbling meekly over the 10 metre line –but this was soon forgotten as the Hammers got into attacking gear quickly. A period of early possession and slick handling meant prop Jacob Poulton found himself with ball in hand out wide in a strong attacking position in the opposition half. Recollections of the exact distance from the try line vary widely, but one thing that isn’t up for debate was the efficiency with which he put away his try. Dummy to Will Smith thrown, afterburners on, he ate up the 10-45m quickly to turn in the first try. Alex Hart was quick to point out after the game that he was on hand to finish the effort, if required. Joe Carolan missed the conversion, obviously. 0-5
Overconfident after their initial success, Hammersmith let their opposition back into the game. The Hampstead no 4, who would carrying well all game, found and broke through a gap in the Hammersmith back line before putting his number 13 into space to go under the sticks. 7-5
Momentary blip forgotten, Hammersmith returned to their attacking ways. A few phases of forwards ball followed by a slick out-the-back move put number 13 James Lo onto the ball just inside his own half. Bouncing out of a double tackle, he carved up the remaining Hampstead defenders like a well-cooked Sunday roast and made his way through the bog to the try line – his Friday morning bi’s-and-tri’s gym session really showed as he held off a tackler to go over the white wash. Joe Carolan didn’t add the extras, naturally. 7-10
The following period of Hammersmith attacking dominance in the opposition half brought two penalties within kicking range. As both were right in front of the sticks, Joe Carolan finally got his points tally underway and took his side into the half time break comfortably up. 7-16
Hampstead rallied at the start of the second half, using the downhill slope to their advantage to earn a deserved try through their forward pack. The Hampstead kicker, having swapped tips with Joe C at half time, missed the conversion. 12-16
This proved to be the second half kick-up-the arse Hammersmith needed. A foray up the slope into the opposition half got Hammers within striking distance and their pack, bit between their teeth, did the rest. Big carrying and slick offloading out the tackle from the forwards – Jacob P to Josh McClean, Josh to Lachy – saw the men in red go over at serious pace. Alex Hart was quick to point out after the game that he could easily have pulled off a similar pass, were he not miles away from the action. With only mouldies on, Joe Carolan slipped in his run up and kicked the extra two points. 12-23
The next 10 minutes proved to be a real turning point in the game, where Hammersmith would distance themselves from their opponents and prove to all watching what serious promotion contenders they really are…
Keen to not let the Hammers pull away further, Hampstead rallied hard and mounted a sustained attack in search of a try. Their efforts, however, were to no avail as the Hammers saw off wave after wave of attack, not letting their determined opponents into their 22. Whilst Steve John and Angus Lean stood out in particularly during this passage of play, it was surprisingly veteran prop Andrew Rogan who would get the turn-over that formally ended the Hampstead effort. Asked about this uncharacteristic jackal after the game, Rogan confessed that he had actually stopped for a breather and bent over to tie his shoelaces when play caught up with him and the ball fell into his hands.
It was during this Hampstead period of attack that soon-to-be super sub Cillian Waldron, replacing the soft shouldered inside centre Will Smith (DM me about gym, mate), sustained a knock to the head that would awaken the beast…
After forcing their way into the Hampstead 22 courtesy of some impressive carrying, the Hammersmith pack let the pretty boys do the rest. Scrum half Ross Anderson planted a sweet seed, like a carrot farmer in Spring, into the hands of Waldron who threw a dummy pass to Sam Purvis before crashing over himself for the bonus point try. Carolan added nothing extra, of course. Hampstead picked up a yellow card for repeated defensive infringements in the build-up. 12-28.
A relatively quiet 5 minute period ensued, with nothing coming of a few Hampstead efforts. The only real highlight for the spectators came courtesy of Sam Purvis. Defending one-on-one against the Hampstead winger, he confidently pointed to the space on his inside, inviting him to take the space; the Hampstead winger accepted the invitation, turning Purv inside out in the process. This washing machine motion was probably the main reason Purv’s match shirt was so clean at the end of the game. Fortunately, a Hampstead knock-on spared any further blushes.
Hammersmith then went back on the offensive, backs and forwards combining well under the stewardship of Joe C. The pressure ultimately proved too much for Hampstead, as they went down to 13 men after a second yellow card for a shoulder charge to the head of fullback Taylor Williams. Alex Hart was quick to point out after the game that he could quite easily have been high tackled also.
Playing against only thirteen men and with their opposition tiring, the Hammers turned up the heat, adding a penalty (12-31) and going in search of a fifth try deep in the opposition half. Josh McClean, improvising at scrum half, fed James Lo who basketball passed it to Joe C, who put Cillian Waldron through for his second try of the game. At the time of writing, Cillian had just finished putting the ball down. 12-36
The dying moments of the game saw ever-lively scrum half Ross Anderson try to extend the lead further, running through an enormous gap towards the try line. Unfortunately, his ego was writing cheques his wheels couldn’t cash and he was quickly closed down by their tighthead prop to bring the game to a close. The contest finished 12-36.
All in all, an impressive showing from Hammersmith & Fulham who now have 8 wins from 9 games, keeping the pressure on London Welsh at the top of the table.
All eyes on their next game against Chiswick at Hurlingham Park…
MOM: Josh McClean
Tin Man: Also Josh
Ben Hatton: Still single