Saints beat the snow but not Hemel Hempstead
- Credit: Archant
SAINTS welcomed local rivals Hemel Hempstead to Boggymead Spring on Saturday in the only surviving fixture in the area.
Although the elements conspired to make a postponement likely, the potential of a fixture pile up was on the mind of Saints’ director of rugby, Tim Andrews, when he called club member volunteers to come to the club armed with shovels, brooms and blowers in an attempt to clear the pitch.
If postponed, the fixture would have had to played on Easter Saturday and with most players either on tour to Bournemouth with the club or away in sunnier climes, Saints were trying their utmost to get the game on.
The lines had been cleared and an hour before kick-off the pitch was clearly playable.
By the time the referee arrived, both skippers had agreed to ‘give it a go’. Unfortunately, another downfall of snow during this hour covered the lines again and the helpers returned with their tools to sweep again.
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The match duly kicked off on time and it was the hosts who immediately looked more at home in the conditions. In possession, they were cleverly offloading prior to contact thus not allowing for the ball to be spilled in the tackle.
They were rewarded for their early dominance, when full back Mark Kentish opened the scoring with a customary well struck penalty.
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Further retention of the ball, again deep in Hemel territory, saw Saints knocking on the door. But the visitors’ defence was up to the task of keeping the marauding Saints pack at bay.
A scrum was awarded on half way to the hosts, seemingly not in a dangerous position. However an initial carry by No.8 John Sayers and a perfect ruck was set up. Scrum half Alex Deane was able to fire the quick ball out to skipper and stand off Martin Alderton.
A clever miss-move in the centre allowed Kentish to burst through the created gap, but an excellent tackle by his opposite number cut him down.
He did have just enough time however to pop the ball up to wing James Dickinson, supporting close at hand, and he had the wherewithal to make an early dive for the corner, sliding on the snow to go under the despairing covering tackle.
Saints had been good value for their eight-point lead midway through the first period, but the tide was about to turn.
It was as if the visitors had taken 20 minutes to become accustomed to the conditions.
As half-time approached Saints were rocked back by two quickfire tries, one via the now dominant visiting forwards, the second through their slick backs.
The momentum had critically swung at a vital time.
The second period was like a different game with Hemel, now mastering the conditions, dominant throughout. Saints were starved of any possession, Hemel on the other hand always looked dangerous.
In spite of Saints’ best efforts, every time they got into Hemel territory, they were destined, to leave empty handed. The visitors’ defence proved to be impregnable on the day.
There were some excellent individual performances, notably in the back row where the combination of Sayers, Sass Moskofian and Tony Stevenson, playing together as a unit for the first time, looked strong.
There was even the spectacle of veteran Doug Morete, making a cameo appearance at scrum half when coming off the bench to replace the injured Deane.
But the fact of the matter was, the better side on the day would prevail, the visitors completing the rout by running in a further four tries during the bleak second half.
Having been well beaten by the side in second spot, Saints now face the daunting prospect of visiting league leaders Tabard on their next outing, before hosting Hampstead in the final fixture.