Hammers dig deep and hang on

Hammers 1st  team continued on the road this week with a ‘short’ commute out to Marlborough, for the clubs 2nd fixture of 2024. The commute of course, included the traditional away bus quiz, in which Head Coach Mark, Lewis Litt (Big Josh) and Mad dog Maddigan took the win with a questionable 39/50 questions correct. The winning teams’ debateable proximity to the Quiz Master, Stephen Harris caused an outrage. It almost brought the tradition into disrepute and risked dividing the team before a minute of rugby had been played.

This weeks’ fixture was the second time the 1st team had faced Marlborough RFC this season – some may remember (or have tried to forget) witnessing the Hammers drop in the final minutes and in typical Hammers fashion… losing at Home by less than a try. For the Hammers, it was an important game – going into the day, the Hammers remained steady on the ladder in 8th place with 29 points, Brighton sitting above at 7th with 35 points, and Maidenhead trailing closely behind on 21 points.

The day was clear, the air a brisk but thankfully dry 1-2 degrees. The Hammers lost the toss, forced to kick-off but running downhill.  Frustratingly, and is their way, they decided to also set themselves up for an up-hill battle, the opening kick-off going 10 meters backwards not forwards. “Never send a back to do a forwards job” could be heard from front row veteran and club stalwart, Rogan, celebrating his 38th lap around the sun that week.

The first 20 minutes saw each team come away with a penalty goal, with VC Joe Carolan, (now 2nd highest points scorer in the division (114)) knocking 3 points through the posts. Marlborough followed up quickly with an unconverted try, to which the Hammers quickly responded, with Tim Russel scoring not once but twice,  one under the post and one of the back of a driving mall. With both converted again by Joe, the boys started to feel comfortable.

It was not to be like that for long. Marlborough, known for their size and physicality, began to play to their strengths, putting several of the lads through their paces and testing shoulders and ribs. There was a notable late hit on James Maddigan, which could be heard from the sideline, however, the Hammers also contributed their fair share of questionable hits, with back row enforcer, Harry “Sid” Scarr sent to the bin in the final minutes of the 1st half with a yellow card. This yellow could easily have been a red as, from some angles, Sid almost decapitated the opposition winger, but the Hammers managed to fight out the rest of the 1st half without conceding another point (while being a player down). First half score 8 -20

What followed was a second half battle between the Hammers running rugby and Marlborough’s size and physicality. One more try from the Hammers, scored and converted by Joe. Not long after this, one arsey kick led to a late try in the 2nd half for Marlborough, shifting the momentum into the hands of the home side. Hammers still had a marginal lead, which sensed a repeat of their first encounter with the home side and proceeded to lift accordingly. Our line was assailed, our sideline groaned – another late game loss was on the cards…

Que the bomb squad – the notorious and welcome return of Matt Killeen and Ricky Drewitt, who joined the game after both had a short stint away from the club. Putting out one of their better defensive sets of the season, and despite Marlborough scoring another (almost identical try) in the corner and almost levelling the score to 27-30. we managed to hold out and eventually see out the final whistle for the win.

Final score 27-30  to the Hammers.  Elation. Joy.  And Hammers ending the day with 33 points on the ladder.

Special mentions go to the Man of the Match – Alex Spicer who also celebrated his 50th Cap for the Hammers 1st team.