A victory for HRFC against local rivals
Hanwell faced off against friends and local rivals Whitton Lions for the fifth time since September in this important league fixture.
The Hanwell / Whitton rivalry has developed due to the huge similarities between the two clubs, with Whitton also a relatively new club (just one season older than Hanwell). The two teams simply enjoy playing the game and as such, whenever there is a spare weekend, you can be sure that the sides will square off in a friendly.
Although this was the fifth game between the two this season, it was only the second in the league - where both teams sat beside each other in the play-off places.
The game began on a pitch that was already cut up and full of mud, so there would be little chance of a running, flowing game. Hanwell received the kick off and got set into their game plan immediately - with stand in scrum half, John Bodman directing the forwards into lots of 'pick and goes'.
The home side worked their way up the pitch and into the Whitton half inch by inch - before launching the ball wide for the backs to run at the visitors.
Hanwell dominated the opening 20 minutes, with the host's pack punching holes in the visitor's defence. However, Whitton stood firm on their try line to hold Hanwell out.
The breakthrough eventually came when another set of phases by the Hanwell pack gained the momentum before going wide for Hanwell captain, Steve Nolan to score.
With the conversion missed, the game restarted with the scores 5-0 to the hosts.
Hanwell once again received the restart and decided to keep things tight. The Hanwell forwards were throwing everything they had into the phases, with prop Peter Nolan doing the majority of the damage.
With the forwards pulling in Whitton defenders, there were gaps opening out in the backs and when
John Bodman fed winger Kenny Hassan out wide, he set off towards the tryline.
Hassan was stopped in the visitors 22, but quick thinking (and good handling skills) from Man of the Match, Neal Fetterman allowed the hooker to cross the line under the posts for a 10-0 lead. The wind and muddy conditions meant that another conversion was missed.
Whitton were now taking the game to the hosts and were putting in lots of phases of their own. With only a couple of minutes left of the half, they fed the ball out from their pack to give their flyhalf a scoring opportunity which he took successfully.
Again the conditions made the conversion harder than it would normally be and the teams went in at the break with Hanwell leading 10-5.
The second half began as the first had, this time with Whitton playing lots of phases to build territorial advantage. A turnover in the Hanwell 22 allowed the hosts to then build a strong passage of play that found them camped on the Whitton try line.
It took an incredible turnover by the visitors to halt what looked like a guaranteed score. A huge kick into space then put the Lions on the front foot - with a foot race between their wingers and Hanwell fullback, Dan Horner won by the home player.
However, Whitton had now gained significant territorial advantage and they had their tails up in attack.
Hanwell defended well and it looked like the second half would remain scoreless until Hanwell number 8 H.O. Louwrens picked up the ball at the base of the scrum and powered over to score Hanwell's third try of the game to give the host's some breathing space.
That wasn't to last long however, when the Whitton fullback collected a loose Hanwell kick and ran almost the entire length of the pitch - and through at least three tackles - to score possibly the best try in this league this season to make the scores 15-10.
Things got worse for Hanwell when winger Kenny Hassan went down with a head injury - requiring an ambulance. With the substitutes used (covering injuries), Hanwell had no option but to drop to 14 men.
With just five minutes to go and with Hanwell almost out on their feet, prop Peter Nolan broke a tackle and launched into a 30 metre run before offloading to fly half Paul Doherty to run in unopposed. Unfortunately the referee called play back for a forward pass. Somewhere in the decision, the prop was given a yellow card and spent the remainder of the game in the sin bin.
Down to 13 players for the last five minutes, Hanwell put in a Herculean defensive effort as Whitton powered towards the try line.
Eventually, a knock on ended the game and a fantastic contest, with Hanwell narrowly taking the spoils 15-10.
As always, the game was very physical, close and played in a brilliant spirit from start to finish.
3rd February 2015