In-form St Albans edge out Hampstead in thrilling encounter in North London
Saints snatch one point victory
London 2 North West
Hampstead 32 St Albans 33
St Albans travelled to Hampstead Heath this weekend to take on their arch rivals from North London in what has traditionally become a high scoring affair.
This really was a fabulous advertisement for rugby, with both sides demonstrating a desire to attack at every opportunity. Indeed the fact that only seven tries were scored in total, showed how strong the respective defences were.
Throughout it really was end-to-end stuff, a game enjoyed by the neutral, but for the supporters and coaching staff of the respective sides it was a nail biting affair.
Much credit must also be given to the referee, who took no nonsense at all from either side and was clinical in insisting on an early release of the ball in the tackle and at the ruck. Both teams fell foul early on but once this law had been adhered to it did make for a quicker, open game.
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Saints started brightly enough but it was the home side who scored first. An early Saints attack being broken up and a sweeping counter saw Hampstead score in the corner. Five minutes later Saints were back in it via Mark Kentish’s first strike at goal. Soon after another exciting attack from the home side saw them touchdown under the posts, their lead now 12-3. At this stage it looked as though St Albans were in for a torrid afternoon.
However, they seemed to turn things around with some domination in the tight and the tackling now much more focused in the loose. Indeed it was patient ball retention from the forwards that Saints finally sucked in most of the opposition defence, their backs were then unleashed and a well rehearsed move in the centre released Gareth Lane to race in unopposed.
This gave in-form Saints a renewed impetus and as the half wore on the away side took control.
A further penalty from Kentish saw Saints take the lead and shortly before halftime young wing Dan Satchell scorched over, again after some scintillating lead up play. The conversion was added and this saw Saints go into the break with a 12-20 lead.
The home side started the second period much the better, with Saints seemingly asleep from the break. Although not securing any possession, it was in this period that Saints really defended well, especially the last up cover defence, keeping the hungry home side at bay.
Hampstead scored a penalty, St Albans responded with one of their own to retain an eight point cushion. Hampstead then scored another and followed this up with their own converted try to take a 25-23 point lead going into the final ten minutes.
Once again it looked like the result could go either way. With Saints on the attack, retaining the ball well and handily placed on their opponents 22, the Hampstead prop infringed with ‘hands in the ruck’. Not only did he gift Kentish with a simple three points, he was also sent to the bin, effectively ending his afternoon.
Hampstead once again went on the offensive but the St Albans defensive line held strong. Saints former captain Justin Joubert, who had replaced influential blind side Mike Weedon was making some big hits along with present day skipper Dave Callan.
From a classic turnover, Saints broke upfield and following swift interplay between forwards and backs the ball ended up with wing Satchell. He bounced the first two defenders then showed decent pace to round the final cover.
They now had their eight point cushion back going into the final three minutes. Hampstead, to their credit, never gave up. Saints defence had appeared to have held firm but the last attack saw a clever high kick into the corner bounce favourably for the home side’s wing who only had to catch and flop down. The conversion bought the closing score back to the narrowest of margins. In truth, although St Albans fully deserved the four point win, Hampstead were also deserving of the two losing bonus points from their involvement.
Scrum half Harry Trude was named Man of the Match but it was difficult to choose from a team that excelled in all departments.
For Saints the win keeps confidence high for their next two fixtures, away in the cup to Beccles followed by the next league game at Harpenden.
St Albans: Kentish, Satchell, Lane, Moretee, Dickinson, Howard, Trude; Lemiere, Hume, Weldon, Styles, Sayers, Weedon, Callan, Scanlan.
Reps: Puri, Joubert, Randall.