Hampstead tough out win over Hackney in North London derby
- Credit: Archant
Hampstead saw off a tenacious Hackney side in the North London derby on Saturday, digging deep to emerge 25-18 winners over a side that beat them twice last season.
The visitors stormed to an 18-3 lead early in the second half before uncharacteristic defensive mistakes let the home side back into a game that should have been well beyond them.
Injuries and illness meant a much-changed Hampstead ran out against their local rivals on a bitterly cold afternoon, but they were ahead within three minutes of the kick-off through winger Dave Brandon.
When fly-half Ben Nichols sent a grubber kick behind the Hackney defensive line, Brandon was first to reach the ball and a soggy pitch held up his own kick ahead to allow him to dot down before the ball went dead.
Hackney hit back with a penalty after a quarter of an hour, but Nichols restored Hampstead's five-point advantage near the half-hour mark with a finely taken penalty kick from range.
Hampstead extended their lead early in the second half when second row Rob Sykes scored as the visitors drove over from a five-metre scrum.
Three minutes later captain James Glaysher rounded off another Hampstead driving maul to score on the opposite side of the pitch.
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Hackney notched up a try of their own off the back of a rolling maul but Hampstead debutant Rich Suddens appeared to have sealed the victory within minutes of coming on as substitute.
As Hampstead attacked just metres from Hackney's tryline, scrum-half Craig Harper threw a long pass to Suddens, who somehow evaded the attentions of four Hackney players to score. Nichols added the extras.
Two Hackney tries in the last 15 minutes, however, had Hampstead nerves jangling as the home side surged to within a score of levelling the match, only to run out of time.
"We let ourselves down in areas where we have been brilliant all season," said coach Peter Breen.
"We missed more tackles, and fell off more tackles, in this game than in our previous three combined."
And he lavished praise on his forward pack by saying: "Jack Brooks was man-of-the-match. The scrum was again magnificent, especially when scoring a pushover try and shutting out Hackney when the scrum was reduced to seven men."
"Now in fourth place and with the best defence in the league, we can look forward to a serious promotion challenge in 2020."