Happy at the Hoppers
By John McGuinness
'the mighty “ham and cheese” showing what 6 months of blood, sweat and hotdogs can do for you'
So the Jamaican national team were on Pitch 1 - nothing to see there - if you wanted flying wingers, 3 man pods, epic scrums, trick penalties and coaches on the brink of a breakdown you had to go to pitch 2. That’s where the mighty “ham and cheese” were showing what 6 months of blood, sweat and hotdogs can do for you.
The Hoppers have the finest pitches, the smartest club house and the best weather (and some incredibly friendly staff) but our lot came with their game faces on (not pretty), brand new sponsored shirts and some even had their own boots.
A great turn out from parents, brothers, sisters and the family dog also meant we outnumbered and out shouted the opposition too.
The first half was a blur of attack and defence - mainly their attack and our defence. But time and again Hampstead held the Hoppers up, cleared the lines and exchanged some fairly purple banter with each other and the spectators. But we slowly started to grow in confidence, tackles held, the ball remained unspilled and we pushed into their half. A series of line outs led to a roar from Omar as he stormed over the line to score.
5 -5 at half time and all to play for.
Again we started on the back foot - a merry go round of injuries and substitutions pushed players into positions they could barely even spell - but still we held. Leaking just one try and a conversion felt like a job done well. And with 15 minutes to go, it all changed. The beast stirred. Actually not just one but 15 beasts. The team clicked up a gear.
Zak had been promising to slice and dice the defence for a while and sure enough with an outrageous dummy and a flash of his Colgate smile he went in almost under the posts. Tom’s conversion was a thing of wonder - defying the laws of gravity to climb back over the bar.
12 - 12 and 10 minutes of the league season to go.
Fitbits melted under the strain, coaches contemplated retirement or at least more beta blockers and the crowd began thinking about lunch.
And then it happened. One phase led to another and another and another. It was like watching the Welsh (only in a good way!). I heard Colin whisper the words “they’re running in pods” like he had spotted a real live yeti in west London. And they were. Forwards calling for the ball in 2s and 3s. Charging forward, breaking the line. Penalty followed penalty - Tom ingeniously playing the referee like a cheap tin whistle - yard after yard.
And then just as I was about to get my GP on speed dial - James rammed his way through a forest of bodies and at full stretch touched down.
17 -12 to Hampstead at full time.
Slapped on the back so many times he looked ready spit out breakfast - James said modestly “It was a team effort”
And do you know what? ( despite it really being a brilliant individual try) - he is absolutely right.
A whole team win. Very proud. (Gets tissue, wipes eye, signs off)