Vees keep faint promotion hopes alive with a crisp first half at chilly Cotlandswick

PUBLISHED: 16:00 20 March 2018 | UPDATED: 16:00 20 March 2018

Alex Ricci carries the ball against Hitchin. Picture: Danny Loo

Alex Ricci carries the ball against Hitchin. Picture: Danny Loo

Danny Loo Photography 2018

Verulamians kept their faint promotion hopes from London North West Three alive with a 22-5 win over Hitchin.

Tom Shelton is tackled by a Hitchin forward. Picture: Danny LooTom Shelton is tackled by a Hitchin forward. Picture: Danny Loo

The Cotlandswick-based rugby club are fifth in the table and six points adrift of second-placed Stevenage Town with three games to go.

Verulamians gain ground with a maul against Hitchin. Picture: Danny LooVerulamians gain ground with a maul against Hitchin. Picture: Danny Loo

It is a highly unlikely scenario but Vees have certainly turned things around since their slump at the start of 2018 which saw them lose the first four games after the New Year.

Dale Baines is tackled by Josh Lawrence. Picture: Danny LooDale Baines is tackled by Josh Lawrence. Picture: Danny Loo

This was their second victory in the last three games, with a two-point loss to promotion rivals Welwyn last weekend the only blot on the copybook.

Sam Perry kicks the ball forward against Hitchin. Picture: Danny LooSam Perry kicks the ball forward against Hitchin. Picture: Danny Loo

But this game at a chilly London Colney saw Verulamians crush any resistance from their already-relegated north Hertfordshire opponents.

Darren Westhead is tackled against Hitchin. Picture: Danny LooDarren Westhead is tackled against Hitchin. Picture: Danny Loo

They had the elements in their face during the first period but made their possession count.

Verulamians RFC claim a lineout against Hitchin. Picture: Danny LooVerulamians RFC claim a lineout against Hitchin. Picture: Danny Loo

Looking good going forwards thanks to the drive injected by Tim Fretter, Darren Westhead, Daniel Barnes and player-coach Sam Perry among others, they caused Hitchin’s defence plenty of problems.

Alex Ricci carries the ball against Hitchin. Picture: Danny LooAlex Ricci carries the ball against Hitchin. Picture: Danny Loo

And it was from one forward surge that Perry dummied a defender and glided over for an unconverted score.

Adam Shaw is tackled into touch by Sam Perry. Picture: Danny LooAdam Shaw is tackled into touch by Sam Perry. Picture: Danny Loo

Straight from the restart they managed try number two, a successful rolling midfield maul giving centre Billy Sach the gap through which to dart.

Dale Baines drives for the line. Picture: Danny LooDale Baines drives for the line. Picture: Danny Loo

The expansive running game employed by the hosts was enough to give the heavier Hitchin pack the run around and on 30 minutes Alex Ricci seized an opportunity on halfway to run under the posts and give Gareth Waters the easy conversion.

Thomas Tidey catches and returns a Verulamians kick. Picture: Danny LooThomas Tidey catches and returns a Verulamians kick. Picture: Danny Loo

The bonus point was brought up by half-time after Ben Fuller’s long strides split the Hitchin defence again and he fed Jake Lawrence to speed over the line.

Thomas Spratt runs at the Verulamians defence. Picture: Danny LooThomas Spratt runs at the Verulamians defence. Picture: Danny Loo

But the second half was not such one-way traffic with Hitchin responding wonderfully.

Within two minutes Adam Shaw and Will Evans combined to put the former over in the corner and for the remainder of the game they looked the more likely to score.

But bar one superb tap tackle aside, Verulamians were able to see out the game and take the full five points.

Their run-in begins with Finchley at home on Saturday, followed by a trip to OMT and another home game, against Datchworth, both in April.

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