Victory against rugby's 'History Boys' at Boston Manor
Last Saturday, Hanwell RFC claimed an impressive 19-10 victory in a friendly against Belsize Park III's. The match brought together two teams, contrasting both in origins and league position, yet it was the underdog who prevailed in a closely-fought encounter.
Belsize Park, who play their home games at Regent's Park, are currently top of the league above Hanwell and can point to a distinguished history; in 1871 Belsize was one of the clubs at the inaugural meeting of the Rugby Football Union, and can rightly call themselves pioneers of the game of Rugby Union. Though the team moved to Rosslyn Park seven years later, Belsize Park RFC would be re-established by a group of local players in the 1970s.
In stark contrast to rugby's 'History Boys', newcomers Hanwell were formed only last year. The Manor of Belsize, from which the visitors take their name, dates back to 1317; this game, however, was played at Boston Manor - Hanwell's back yard.
As the game began, Belsize made it plain that they wished to run the ball on the firm, dry ground. The home side defended well, with the early waves of the visitor's attacking play easily snuffed out. Hanwell returned the pressure in kind with a dominant scrum and lineout - Captain Steve Nolan regularly stealing the Belsize ball on their throws.
Eventually however, it was Belsize who made the breakthrough, breaking down the blindside to score in the corner. The kick was a difficult one and it wasn't a surprise for the conversion to sail wide of the posts.
From the restart, Hanwell's forward dominance started to turn the screw both at scrum time and in the lineouts. In was from a lineout in the visitor's 22 that Hanwell put together their first scoring passage of play:
Hooker John Bodman was first to react when Steve Nolan once again stole Belsize ball, managing to pick it off the floor and offload to scrumhalf Paul Doherty. The number 9 ran on an arc before feeding flyhalf Darren Breen who made good yards before passing to flanker Dominik Kuras to bulldoze his way over the whitewash. With the conversion successful, the game restarted with Hanwell 7-5 up.
The lead was soon extended, with Hanwell making their scrummaging dominance tell at a Belsize put-in within their own 22. As the visitor's pack was driven backwards, scrumhalf Paul Doherty managed to capitalise on the loose ball and dot down for Hanwell's second try.
However, with Hanwell seven points clear, the momentum began to shift back to the visitors. An injury to one of Belsize's props meant that scrums, key to the hosts' early grip on the match, would now be uncontested. After the restart, the visitors began to exert some pressure and after persistent team offences, Hanwell had a player shown the yellow card. Down to 14 players, Hanwell were opened up by a good Belsize move, making use of their numerical advantage to create an overlap on the wing. With the conversion missed, Hanwell went into half-time with a slender 2-point advantage.
Beginning the second half with 14 players and with their dominant weapon disarmed, it would have been easy for the home side to let their head's drop and lose shape. However, the team pulled together creditably and began to re-establish their style of rugby over the game.
Tensions ran high as both teams looked for a potential killer blow; eventually, it was Hanwell who would provide it. Quick ball from another turnover enabled Darren Breen to create enough space for flanker Kenny Hassan to glide through the visitor's defence and score the host's third try of the game. The extras were duly taken and Hanwell managed to close out the remaining minutes to finish the match as 19-10 victors.
The game was a solid victory against a team leading the league above Hanwell, and was notable for the debuts of Mitchel Thorpe & Jonathan James Ashby for the home side.
March 26, 2014