Hackney bounce back from St Albans loss by beating Hemel Hempstead

Rich Frost was among the Hackney try scorers in their win at Hemel Hempstead. Pic: Paolo Minoli

Rich Frost was among the Hackney try scorers in their win at Hemel Hempstead. Pic: Paolo Minoli - Credit: Archant

Hackney recovered from the disappointment of their defeat to St Albans by beating Hemel Hempstead 15-10 thanks to tries from PJ Lloyd, Rich Frost and Sean Conner.

The Griffins made a strong start despite the setback of losing James Legg to injury, and went ahead when a solid scrum was followed up by well-timed strike play, which afforded Conner a strong break and enough time to put Lloyd away in the corner.

Hemel responded well and showed they were in no mood to lie down, but a quick call from Alex O’Hara on the blindside saw a strong counter-attack and after some silky footwork from Lloyd, Frost was given space to ground the ball for a 10-0 lead.

Following a physical first half, Hackney increasingly resembled a makeshift side, and with players taking time to settle into their new positions, Hemel were finally able to capitalise on a spell of possession.

The hosts’ opening try was converted, and within a matter of minutes the scores were level after another three points from the tee.

Hackney had to show spirit and defensive qualities to ensure no repeat of the previous weekend’s 14-7 reverse.

Rather than reflect on a 10-point lead squandered, the Griffins fell back on all their experience of prevailing in tight contests earlier in the season to regain momentum with the ball in hand.

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After working through a number of well-managed sets of phases without scoring, Hackney were finally able to take advantage of a poorly judged box-kick from the Hemel scrum-half.

Good hands from the back three in broken play allowed the Griffins to return down the touchline and Conner displayed a combination of strength and awareness to dot down on the side-line.

Despite being reduced to 14 men in the final few minutes, Hackney held on to preserve their position in third place, and captain Will Bowers reflected on a job well done.

“We chased and kicked very well in a close-fought game,” he told the Gazette.

“They’re a good side who’ve beaten Belsize Park this season. Their league position belies their qualities, but they fluffed their lines a bit in the second half.

“It’s a major boost to have Ben Chamberlain back from injury, and thankfully James [Legg] has only picked up a severe strain. We thought he’d fractured something, so he’ll only be out for weeks rather than months.

“The match was similar to St Albans in that it showed the importance of getting off to a good start. It’s so hard to come back from a deficit in this league, and we just didn’t get off to a good start last time.

“We were forced to move players around a bit after the injury, with Mike Ward moving from flanker to hooker and Matia Navunisinu moved out to the wing, but thankfully the conditions were manageable.

“We’ve got Belsize at home this week, so hopefully we’ll be able to call on a solid group of players. It’s been a struggle at times to stick to the same core 18, but now is a real chance to stake a claim for a regular starting position against a good side.”