Hackney drop further behind league leaders Belsize Park after defeat

Hackney's Sean Conner scored against Belsize Park but was on the losing side. Pic: Paolo Minoli

Hackney's Sean Conner scored against Belsize Park but was on the losing side. Pic: Paolo Minoli - Credit: Archant

Hackney slipped further off the pace in the promotion race after a 25-15 home defeat against joint leaders Belsize Park left them 19 points outside the top two spots in London North West Division Three.

The third-placed Griffins lost the reverse fixture back in October and saw their promotion aspirations all but ended on Saturday.

Hackney fought back from 12-3 down at half-time to level the scores at 15-15 after tries from Sean Conner and Richard Frost, but their visitors came out on top after scoring 10 unanswered points.

Captain Will Bowers believes his players can be proud of their efforts, despite not converting periods of dominance into points.

“We didn’t disgrace ourselves,” Bowers told the Gazette. “We had to contend with losing two players in the warm-up so, given that we fielded a depleted side, I thought we gave a good account of ourselves.”

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Hackney earned three penalty kicks at goal in the early stages and converted the third of them to take the lead.

However, Belsize quickly responded with the opening try. A powerful maul led to profitable attacks out wide and captain George Hazlett crashed through to the line and stretched to ground the ball.

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Hackney missed another chance at goal while failing to capitalise on a couple of try-scoring opportunities by dropping the ball, and they were punished as Belsize’s top try scorer Ben Parker scored off the back of a scrum, with Jamie Irvine adding the extras.

The Griffins trailed 12-3 at the break but Conner then gave them some hope, slipping between Belsize’s centres and finishing off a 40-metre run to score under the posts.

The conversion missed the target and Mark Liebling kicked a penalty at the other end, but Hackney scored again as Frost collected a grubber kick and touched down to level the scores at 15-15.

Belsize reacted immediately, though, increasing the pressure on the hosts’ defence – and their efforts were rewarded as Parker charged down a clearance kick to score.

The visitors’ forwards also found another gear and they embarked on a series and pick-and-goes, with hooker Stewart Shaw making a couple of darting runs, before Chris Lilly touched down in the corner to kill the game off.

Hackney now have a weekend off before returning to action on Saturday February 13 with a trip to Wasps, who lie at the bottom of the 12-team division having lost all of their 15 league games this season and conceded 668 points in the process.

Their chances of catching Belsize Park or London Nigerian look a little forlorn, though.

Nigerian have only lost one game all season and Belsize have won their last nine successive matches.

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