Belsize Park captain Tom House admits his squad have been eyeing Saturday’s crucial top-of-the-table clash for a while, and he is confident of coming out on top.
Belsize secured their second promotion in three years last term, and they are now looking to move up from London North-West Division Three in the coming weeks.
House’s side sit second with three games to go, just four points behind Fullerians, and this weekend they host the leaders in a showdown which could decide who moves up the pyramid.
Belsize, who are unbeaten on their own turf in Regent’s Park since September 2013, have won seven games in a row and another victory could take them into top spot – which is the only place guaranteed to provide promotion.
Second place may well be enough, as it was last season, but a defeat on Saturday could open the door for third-placed Welwyn to overtake them and leave BP outside the top two.
“It’s absolutely massive, there’s no doubt about that in our minds,” House told Ham&High Sport. “We’re on a good run though, we’ve won every game since the new year and we can’t wait to get out there to be honest.
“I think our eyes have probably been on this for a little bit too long, hence the slightly closer results than we might have anticipated –like the one against Wasps in our last game.
“We kind of knew that we had to win everything up to this point to ensure that it mattered, but then as the momentum started to build and we beat Welwyn and then Datchworth a few weeks ago, we’ve really started to think about this big one.
“There’s everything to play for. We need to win with a bonus point and deny them a bonus point to go top, so it’s very exciting.”
A narrow victory would take Belsize level on points with Fullerians, but still leave them second. They need to score four tries to get the bonus fifth point, while also beating their rivals by at least eight points to deny their visitors a losing bonus point and overhaul them.
However, House is aware that an overly ambitious, gung-ho approach could backfire.
“Absolutely, and the boys won’t need any encouragement to get up for the game,” said the skipper. “If anything my job will be to keep them composed, keep them calm and keep them focused on doing what they’ve done so well all season.
“It will be about us playing our best game and sticking to our game plan and keeping it nice and straightforward.
“We’ve got some real fliers in our back line who can score from anywhere on the pitch, and they’ve been brilliant all season, so we’re not worried about not being able to score tries or anything like that. It’s not really been an issue.
“We haven’t really thought about the prospect of losing either, or what the implications of that would be. We try to only have positive thoughts.
“The games that we’ve lost, looking back, were times when we were maybe fielding slightly weaker sides, because of injuries or people travelling or having to work.
“But we’ve got a full-strength squad to pick from on Saturday – apart from my brother Freddie, who has unfortunately been injured for most of the year – so we can’t wait for it.”
Fullerians won the previous meeting between the sides in
December, but that was a narrow 24-21 victory on their home turf, and House is confident Belsize Park can gain revenge on their own ground this weekend.
“We felt we should have beaten them last time,” he said. “We missed three kickable penalties, we put a lot of pressure on them and we were hammering at their 22 but we couldn’t quite get into it.
“They kept conceding penalties at the breakdown but the referee wouldn’t send anyone off because it wasn’t in the 22, which seemed a bit arbitrary at the time.
“They’ve got a big set of forwards, they’re very organised, and they’re skilful at the breakdown. But we’ll have Sam Bennett back, who’s our master at the breakdown, and Alex Lee, who wins turnover after turnover.
“I don’t think either of those played the last time we played them so we’ll fancy our chances – and our home record speaks for itself.”
Taken from the article on the Ham & High: http://www.hamhigh.co.uk/sport/rugby/belsize_park_captain_admits_we_ve_been_waiting_for_fullerians_title_showdown_for_a_while_1_3999585