Hemel Hempstead 15 – 15 London Nigerian

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Match Report:

London Nigerian leave Hertfordshire with a disappointing draw in their penultimate game of the season

LNRFC made their final away trip to Hemel Hempstead for their penultimate game of the season. With the weather brightening and the wind lessening it looked a good day for rugby and after another promotion season perhaps this contributed to the sense of complacency within the Playas.

They started the game well with the ball in hand however in defence there was a distinct lack of intensity. With Hemel Hempstead possessing a large pack, passive defence allowed them to grow into the game. After absorbing LNRFC pressure their fly half broke straight through the Nigerian back line too easily, after making 30 metres he was well supported and eventually the ball made it back into his hands for the first try of the game. Converted for 7-0. This gave the home side and their partisan support a huge boost and they earned a penalty shortly afterwards. 10-0. When LNRFC had the ball and played through the phases they looked dangerous unfortunately on more than one occasion when the final pass was needed the move would break down. Their situation was made more difficult by a yellow card for skipper Esberger after the ref had warned for repeated infringement. Down to 14 men and LNRFC conceded a second try as Hemel used a penalty advantage in the 22 to try a crossfield kick which saw their winger touch down. 15-0. LNRFC knew that they just needed to use the ball better and after playing their way back up the field Cox slotted a penalty with the last kick of the half for a 15-3 half time score.

The message at half time was to not panic and use phase play to control the ball with the slope in the Playas favour. They started the second half brilliantly and despite still being down to 14 they managed to secure a line out in the corner. The resulting driving maul saw Tom Murray score an unconverted try , 15-8. Esberger was soon back on the field and the home crowd welcomed his return loudly. It wasn’t long before LNRFC leveled the scores. A rush defence in the centres saw Mike Floyd force a fumble from the home fly half, Floyd hacked the ball on and the bounce was good for him to gather and race in from 40 metres out. Cox converted and it was 15-15.

Hemel grew into the game after that try and made use of their scrum dominance to gain territory. Fortunately for Nigerian they could not breach the final line of defence. The referee was busy as there were multiple penalties from both sides however despite warning the home team on numerous occasions he seemed reluctant to send any player to the bin. Nigerians thought they had found the winning try as fullback Adam Foley joined the line to create an overlap for Freddie Chalke to run in but the final pass was forward.

LNRFC did well to come back from 15-0 down and there were outstanding performances from Jon Hardisty and Tom Murray in the back row however this was still a disappointing result.

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