Written by: Danny Buckland
Hillcroft took advantage of Spencer and Hampstead’s lay-off to claim top spot in the Prem and enjoy the view.
Their 18-4 victory over Purley was comfortable and comprehensive, suggesting they will be a force capable of sending shudders through Spencer – they travel to Earlsfield next week to test the tremors.
Blues edged Hitchin 9-8 while Reading and Bristol played out a 7-7 draw to complete a truncated fixture list.
Hillcroft and Purley fought a tight first quarter which finished 2-2 before the home team grabbed the game with a 7-1 scoring burst to slam the door on the purple tide.
“We had contributions from across the team in terms of scoring, with noted contributions from long poles Andrew Hopkins and man of the match John Goodwin combining for a total 5 points,” said Hillcroft skipper Eoin Dunne. “Jon Arthur had a break out game in attack with 3 goals and an assist.
“It felt like a great continuation of our performance against Blues the week before and one we will look to carry into the upcoming games. But credit to Purley who fought to the end in a gutsy performance.”
The former giants are still looking to breathe new fire with their revised line-up and skipper Matt Payne said: “We started the game strong and were level pegging for the first quarter and a bit which was promising but we soon ran out of both steam and ideas heading into half time. Early in the second half they extended their lead and we just couldn’t keep up or stay in touch with the scoreline.
“I think overall we have to take some positives as we played some nice lacrosse in patches and, with a young squad with lots of new guys, it was a good step forward from the previous week but I’m disappointed we couldn’t be more competitive for the whole game.”
Purley will be hoping that Blues stuttering start to the season will give them a chance as they travel to Banstead next Saturday.
Blues have struggled with numbers but still have the craft and steel to claim close games. They won in dramatic style at Hitchin 9-8, surviving a scare with 15 seconds to go when Stuart McGregor Dallas was forced into a point blank save from Steve McDermott who was gifted possession in front of goal.
“Hitchin looked solid in the first quarter and their keeper, Hopkins, was a star,” said McGregor Dallas. “They got ahead 3-0 but we found our feet in the second quarter and got four unanswered goals, the pick coming from Graham Lesko. The 3rd quarter was a game of transition as both teams traded blows and scored goals.”
Blues established an 8-5 cushion going into the last quarter but Hitchin fired back with three straight goals before a solo piece of wizardry from Matt Birkett, direct from the face off, gave them a crucial 9-8 lead.
“It was a nervy finish as Hitchin pushed for the equaliser and almost got it in the dying seconds,” added McGregor Dallas.
Bristol were once again without keeper Bob Chapman but replacement Jamie Caldwell was impressive in the draw at Reading, who jumped out to an early 2-0 before the Bombers got on the score sheet through Pete Wilson on a man up play at the end of the firs quarter.
“We became a bit more settled in offense and got accustomed to Reading’s high pressure defence in Quarter 2, which enabled us to create opportunities,” said captain Wilson. “However Reading managed to get two goals from silly mistakes to level it 4-4 at half time.”
Both teams battled hard for ascendancy and Sam Hockenull, a Bristol Uni student, got two goals but the Bombers could not convert a two minute penalty as defences dominated the final minutes.
“A great game all round and I feel, if we had a few screws tightened we could have definitely come away with the win,” added Wilson.
Hampstead sit it out again this week as Hillcroft have players involved in Ireland trials but Cardiff are back in action after a Saturday off as their ground was taken over for the rugby world cup.
Hillcroft 18 – 4 Purley
Hitchin 8 – 9 Blues
Reading 7 – 7 Bristol
24/10/2015 – Fixtures
East Grinstead v Hitchin
Purley v Blues
Reading v Harlequins
Spencer v Bristol Bombers