Spencer delivered a huge blow to Hillcroft’s title hopes with a thumping 15-2 victory. The Earlsfield club unveiled their season’s best performance just when it was needed to halt their rivals’ resurgence.
The Croft came off a bye-week to find Spencer firing hot and struggled to connect with their excellent early season form.
Co-captain Rob Holmes hit seven but it was the work of Joe Darkins with ten assists that drew the plaudits. His link-up play is a crucial providing the thread for a weaving attack.
Tom Leahy scored two from D as they kept their 100% record squeaky clean.
“It was a fantastic team performance and it came with Darkins and Leahy stand-outs,” said Holmes.
“We have got to keep focused over the coming weeks and have the Blues game firmly in our sights. We are working toward finishing this first half of the season unbeaten and top of the table.”
Blues are now the only other team with an unbeaten dance card and the two giants of SEMLA are due to meet in a titanic tango on November 29.
Hillcroft skipper Eoin Dunne was pragmatic in defeat: “After a strong performance two weeks ago we seemed to take a step back and severely under performed, taking nothing away from Spencer though as they were superb across the park,” he said.
“We struggled to find our rhythm on offence and lacked in cutting edge against an extremely strong organised unit which didn’t give an inch all game. The game has given us things to work on and we hope to put up a more competitive showing the next time we meet Spencer.
“With Bristol at home on Saturday we know we need to rebound quickly and up our game to maintain our position at the sharp end of the table.”
Defenders Andrew Hopkins and James Prescotts performed well and the experience can only help Hillcroft’s impressive improvement curve as they stay third in the table.
Champions Blues were merciless against an under-strength Welwyn Warriors who managed to take a cheeky lead before feeling both Blue barrels in the 26-4 defeat.
“Welwyn shocked us in the first two minutes by going 2-0 up. From there though we pulled ourselves back together and the game was never in doubt,” said Blues captain Dave Cluney.
Peter Ross and Dave Howie got the ball rolling and, after the home team had wrestled a 5-2 first quarter lead, it was downhill all the way with Matt Birkett imperious at face-off.
Long sticks Ollie Barrett and Ed Simkin-Byrne got on the scoresheet as Blues cashed in.
“Credit should be given to Welwyn for the tenacity and heart, but ultimately they were out gunned in every part of the field. so much so that the game ended with every single player on the Blues roster scoring, with the exception of our goalie and Toby Martlew who has yet to score a single goal for the club in his entire Blues career,” added Cluney.
Warriors’ skipper George Breese said: “We went 2 nil up but they brushed the rust off and controlled the game from there. We had a nice transition goal late in the game and showed some good signs at times but lacked players and depth. “Credit to the 2nd team players who stepped up this week and especially our 2 poles and goalie who, despite the score, worked hard off for the entire game.”
Welwyn’s badger-bitten pitch looks in decent shape for this weekend’s fixture with Hampstead who are steadily returning to form and completed back-to-back wins with a 15-8 triumph over Purley.
“We had a very poor first quarter and let Hampstead rack up some quick goals, despite us initially taking the lead,” said captain Dave Copple. “We stabilised afterwards and managed to put up some of our own in the last quarter, but it was too little too late. Hampstead had a strong squad with quality throughout and were simply the better side on the day.”
Hitchin were another team returning from an inactive week and came back from a tricky trip to Bristol with a 10-4 win after the Hertfordshire side’s defence set the tone.
“Defensively we were full strength, which is ideal for away trips, and it really stopped Bristol picking up any momentum,” said skipper Rhodri Stanford, who scored five after moving into the attack alongside Mike Halliwell, who grabbed four.
“We were missing two attackers and weren’t as smooth and fluent as usual but it was a good performance with the D playing really well.”
Reading regrouped with a 16-4 win over East Grinstead after a two tough losses to Blues and Spencer. Both teams fielded light squads and it was 2-2 at quarter time.
“But we managed to pick up the pace in the second and a couple of quick transition goals and some nicely worked possessions yielded results and we didn’t really look back,” said skipper Paul Milner.
“With the absence of most of our regular 1st team poles, two of our midfielders dropped down into an unusual position and to only concede 4 goals was a testament to how well they played.
“EG still have a core of very committed players and, as they were missing a few key contributors, I’m sure they’ll bounce back.”
Rob Day lead the scoring with 4 while Milner and Dom Sandy both got hat-tricks.
Bristol Bombers 4 – 10 Hitchin
Hampstead 15 – 8 Purley
Hillcroft 2 – 15 Spencer
Reading 16 – 4 East Grinstead
Blues 26 – 4 Welwyn
Hillcroft v Bristol Bombers
Hitchin v Blues
Purley v Reading
Spencer v East Grinstead
Welwyn v Hampstead
Photo Credit: Lippens Photography