Leaders beat Stags and the Hedgehogs

PUBLISHED: 11:59 12 January 2006 | UPDATED: 09:27 06 May 2010

Action from the Hitchin versus London New Zealand league game

Action from the Hitchin versus London New Zealand league game

STEVENAGE Town and Hitchin both endured the New Year blues as they were well beaten by their respective league leaders. Town, fielding a weakened side, went down 39-5 at North Road to Woodford. A lacklustre first-half performance allowed the visitors to b

Action from the Hitchin versus London New Zealand league game

STEVENAGE Town and Hitchin both endured the New Year blues as they were well beaten by their respective league leaders.

Town, fielding a weakened side, went down 39-5 at North Road to Woodford.

A lacklustre first-half performance allowed the visitors to be in control by the break.

Despite a bright start from the home side, the visitors went ahead through a penalty in only five minutes.

Town defended well and it was not until the 20th minute that the visitors' pack drove the ball forward and crossed for their first try.

Two identical moves resulted in tries, as well as a well-worked back move that created an overlap for another try.

Down by 27 points at half time, Town were soon under pressure from the driving maul and conceded a penalty try.

The home side responded well and soon flying winger Ian Crompton scored the only home points of the afternoon.

Town created pressure and defended well which kept the visitors down to one more try.

They should take heart from their second-half performance as they face Welwyn at home on Sunday in the Herts Presidents' Cup (1.45pm ko).

Hitchin hosted top of the table London New Zealand and, bolstered by the return from injury of a number of key players, took the game to the leaders and dominated possession throughout the game.

But the Kiwis left Old Hale Way on Saturday with their 100 per cent league record still intact but aware that they were somewhat flattered by the 24-5 scoreline.

The Hitchin pack controlled the afternoon, both in the loose and tight play. The lineout was probably the one area where London NZ managed any steady first phase ball and even this was cut to about 50 per cent of their own put in as Dougie Brooker and Craig Blewitt cleared out most of the game.

There was precious little ball for the visitors' backline to work with. But with ball in hand, they were always going to be dangerous and proved their worth with the limited supply available.

Twice during the first half, a loose kick ahead was collected by the Kiwis who, willing to run the ball from anywhere on the pitch, launched decisive counter attacks that tore through to the Hitchin line.

The second half saw a repetition of the first with loose kicks being punished and Hitchin conceding two more tries.

The return of Blewitt, Carl Astley and Ben Alsop to the Hitchin pack made a significant difference to the balance of possession. But as Hitchin drove forward they were met by a committed defensive line.

Hitchin finally got some reward for their afternoon's endeavours. A London NZ five-metre scrum saw the visitors once again back-pedalling and as the ball spilled loose from the set piece, Dale Baines was first to react to touch down to score.

Coach Mick Carey said: "I was disappointed in the scoreline as I feel it does not reflect the balance of the match. But we cannot take anything away from London NZ, they are not top of the table for their attacking skills alone. Their defence was well organised and very committed."

Datchworth produced one of their best displays of the season to win 20-7 at Old Hamptonians and remain in the hunt for promotion.

After soaking up early pressure, Datchworth then opened the scoring.

Billy Johnson claimed clean ball at the front of a lineout and set up the driving maul. The maul inched its way forward for skipper Rob Botterman to touch down. Richie Howells converted from out wide.

Old Hamptonians soon responded as the ball was spread wide left to the winger who had the pace to go around the outside. The inside ball beat the covering tackle for their skipper to score beneath the posts to level the scores.

Datchworth continued to dictate where the game was played with the accurate kicking of Tom Morton at fly-half.

As half-time approached, they scored their second try.

Morton chipped the ball into open space in the Old Hamptonians 22 with Andrew Tarsey giving chase.

The clearing kick was charged down by Tarsey and he won the foot race to touch down for the score. Howells was unsuccessful with the touchline conversion.

The second half continued at the same intensity as the first.

Howells at outside centre made a couple of big hits in midfield to force a couple of penalties for not releasing on the floor.

Missing the first, he slotted the second to take the lead to eight points.

A third try followed, again from a close range lineout. Clean ball through Johnson was secured and a maul set up and driven over the line for Botterman to touch down for his second and secure the points.

Datchworth face the might of Hertford in the Herts Presidents' Cup on Sunday.

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