Heroic Hammers hold out brave Belsize on day of ruinous rainstorms and not-so running rugby.

With losses and cancellations the order of the day for December, Hammers 4th XV ended 2022 on a sour note; the lads eager to get back to winning ways in 2023.

Fattened up on minced pies, boy did they show it. With the weather looking biblical from the offset, a strong squad graced the passing public with an exhibition in defensive doggedness in the Regent’s Park rain.

Perennial rivals Belsize came out swinging, and in the opening stages a good-natured heavyweight slug ensued on the soft turf. Turnovers mounted as the tackles rained down, the ref letting the game flow; Belsize, like the rain, regularly coming in at the side.

After putting up with the dodgy chat of distant relatives all Christmas, it was clear to see players from both sides weren’t here to fuck spiders. Following a succession of particularly bone-crunching hits, slippery eel Sam Nursery cleared up a loose ball and ghosted through the middle of the park to set Hammers 7-up.

Five minutes of goal-line defence later, Hammers escaped their own 22, only for fly-half Joel Mariner to, unsurprisingly, have difficulty finding touch kicking into a gale force crosswind. Fortunately for Hammers, in his first rugby match in 6 months debut wing Will Ridge got to the bouncing ball first, and scurried under the sticks for 7 more.

Fortuitous? Maybe. Cue the music.

Belsize came roaring back, with quick ball and structured phase play, in a pulsating 10-minute spell that robbed the oxygen of even the suspiciously trim-looking Steve Danby. When they did get their hands on the ball, Hammers looked out on their feet, and struggled to hold on to it against a physical Belsize team not used to losing.

The New Year’s Eve hangovers suddenly seemed much less than a week prior as Hammers players desperately pulled their muckers back into the defensive line to try and stem the tide. It was in vain – a brace of quickfire scores out wide pulled Belsize near-level.

But, with spirit aplenty, Hammers came back fighting. Stand up and be counted, you ugly bastards:

Stand-in scrum-half Sam Smith had the best view as the 8-man tractor engine, commonly referred to as the Hammersmith & Fulham 4th team scrum, motored up the park so convincingly they nearly fell down the stairs at Baker Street station.

Strong running lines and impressively disciplined phase play from the imperious forwards set the electric backline up to put Hammers within arms-length of the whitewash; Guy Woodhouse and Ben Osgood impressing with clever running lines that made you briefly wonder if the Fiji team were running through their trick book at the Dubai Sevens – never mind the weather.

Man of the match Russel Wingfield, a willing runner and leading tackler all day, eventually crossed to send Hammers into the break exhausted but pumped, and – crucially – 21-12 ahead. Spirits up.

Coach Ian’s fitness sessions paid dividends as the second half got underway: Belsize began to go backwards in attack as Hammers turned the screw and exerted more control on the game, eventually turning a composed rear-guard action into a full-frontal assault on the Belsize boys.

On another day Belsize could have been down to 13 or 14, with the ref having a few choice words as the goal-line penalties mounted. The cheddar stayed sheathed however, and after some further questionable competition at the breakdown, Hammers were stuck with slow ball, leading to a few spurned opportunities.

A minute of missed chances was the only black mark in an otherwise clean book for the boys in red, but one which did lead to some bizarre sights such as Ben WasGood attempting a through-the-legs pass.

Dick of the day? You’d have thought so.

Eventually Wingfield broke through for his deserved second after scrummie Smithy managed some quicker ball and attacked the fringes, but with hooker Danby somehow allowing himself to get charged down on the conversation it was still a two-score game heading into the final 15 (another DOTD contender, you’d have thought).

Increasingly desperate attempts to break through came from the never-say-die Belsize team, with only a last-ditch intervention from back row Jack McGregor allowing Clement Bourdin and full-back Nursery to hold the powerful Belsize backs up over the line in the final 5 mins.

Hammers held out for an impressive second-half clean sheet, and after a short half-marathon to the Belsize Pub enjoyed a few jars with the opposition. Final score, 26-12, bring on the Semis.