The Hammers were in buoyant mood ahead of this week’s fixture against Luton after securing 3 bonus point wins on the trot. Following on from their recent appointment as the UK’s worst large airport, things weren’t looking so bright for Luton RFC, marooned as they were at the foot of the London 2 NW runway. Nonetheless, with a big pack in damp, if not quite wet, conditions, they were an obstacle that needed to be overcome.
Faced with some unavailability, the Hammers backline took on a changed look. Jack Davies came to compose the orchestra at 10, Ross Anderson played his second fiddle at 12, and there was a return to the side after his McGettigans’ tantrum for Alex Gee on the wing.
The men in red got off to a flying start. Kick-off was received and a strong exit accomplished. A poor kick return from Luton gave the Hammers time and space to counter-attack. Alex Gee was looking dangerous with ball-in-hand, probably the reason why his visa was denied. Once up into the 22, Waldron hit a lovely line and reached out foe the whitewash.
Perhaps even more pleasing was the control on proceedings the Hammers established over the next quarter. Defence was tight and organised, led by the back-row titan of Steve John, who had stopped saving lives for a few minutes to make some hits, and the menace that is Cillian Waldron. In attack, the pack moved into their patterns nicely to great effect. The pressure soon paid off with a well-executed maul, Jordan Abbot the beneficiary.
A third try followed quickly. A nice nudge over the top was chased enthusiastically by James Lo, and some deft handling by Steve John and Jacob Poulton led to the ball being returned to Lo who dived in at the corner. The game would have been put out of sight within 30 minutes had Ben Hatton not shanked a penalty from in front of the sticks after a rampaging maul was moved 30 metres up the park. Still the half-time oranges tasted sweet with the score 19-0 and the boys claiming there was plenty left in the tank.
Sadly, the second half was not more of the same. After conceding some careless breakdown penalties, Jordan Abbot did his best sleeping lion impression at one ruck too many and was shown a slice of Cornish cheddar. The heavy Luton pack used this as motivation to have an impact and started applying pressure particularly at the scrum. Andrew ‘the human hinge’ Rogan spent one scrum like a duck in water – neck bent over and feet off the ground paddling hard. Despite this, some excellent defensive work forced a turnover against the run of play and Elliot Purvis got over in the corner.
However, quickly it was backs against the walls. A lack of ball coupled with some cheap penalties gave Luton territory to force themselves over and onto the scoreboard. When they visited the 22 again, the referee deemed James Lo to have done something wrong and sent him to the bin. The situation called for calm heads. The Hammers looked to their captain to set the tone. Josh McClean responded by getting himself a yellow card. Thanks skip. 13 men on their own line held out two 5m scrums before Luton broke through.
At this stage the Hammers focused on closing the game out. Luton were looking to play more expansively and from their own 22 found an overlap to send their winger into the corner. Squeeky bum time. Coach Mark was readying his inner Alex Ferguson regardless of how it went from here. The Hammers secured possessed in Luton’s 22 and looked to look after the pill, despite the best efforts of the newly-single Sam White who thought now was the time for loopy tip-ons. Penalty secured. 2.5 minutes to go. Posts indicated. Missed. Ball regathered. Penalty secured. 1 minute to go. Posts indicated. Final whistle blown before kick taken (which is definitely not a thing). Bonus point win but it didn’t much feel like it.
The boys returned to the comfort of the sheds for their hairdryers and an evening of super fives. We go again next week.