Hammers Vets pipped in Stuart Mangan Cup Curtain Raiser at The Stoop

Hammers Vets with Jason Leonard and Shane Byrne

Hammers Vets with Jason Leonard and Shane Byrne

The Vets took on London Irish Vets (Surrey champions no less) in the long awaited Curtain Raiser, before the England vs Ireland Legends match at the Stoop.

With the groundsmen concerned about the pitch tearing up before the Legends game (not to mention the other team that play at The Stoop), the match was reduced to 10-a-side game lasting 30 minutes. The 10s format is not known to be ‘Vets friendly’ at the best of times, and what with the wide pitch the Hammers formed three teams of 10 players to ensure the ‘pace’ was maintained!

After a Port Toast in memory of Stuart Mangan, the match kicked off. In true Hammersmith style, the Vets allowed London Irish to start well; leaking one try in the first period and two in the second leaving the Hammers with a three try deficit to overturn.

And so they did. The Hammers’ resolve was strong. The first try was a vintage offload from Alex Neilson to John Mowbray for a try in the corner. The second was a grubber kick which fell to the feet of Andrew Barratt but was nimbly was stolen by the oldest man on the pitch in Robin Barton (57) for a score under the posts. In a the last 5 minutes, concerted action on the Irish 22 saw Felix Whitechapel show a clean set of heels to score in the corner, with the conversion sadly missed.

And so the final score was 17 – 19 to Irish, Hammers having lost by a single conversion.

The Curtain Raiser Trophy was later presented by Mark Regan in the Players Lounge, where Vets Captain Chris Hunt announced that London Irish and H&FRFC Vets had together raised a stunning £17,000 for the Legends Charities! Which, combined with last year’s fundraising efforts, totals £63,000 in two years. Well done boys, fantastic!

The Hammers Minis section were also in on the action, as 16 children from the Club provided the Guard of Honour for the Legends players as they came on to the pitch.

Tony (Ubogu) Richards came on to entertain in the last 5 minutes of the Legends match, wearing an England shirt.

Overall a great night which saw the Vets enjoy a lock-in drinking session at the Sun Inn with the Legends players. It doesn’t get better than that!