By Danny Buckland
Three weeks in and another thundering match-up is hurtling down the SEMLA tracks as Spencer and Hampstead collide for the first time this season.
The rivalry is intense, at times, controversial, and always a spectacle of highly-committed and skilled lacrosse.
Champions Hampstead roll into Earlsfield in joint first spot on the back of three impressive wins and a 56-goal tally, exactly the same number as Spencer who are in an unaccustomed fourth slot in the table.
Spencer wiped some of the trauma from their Hillcroft defeat with an 18-1 win in Cardiff last week, while Hampstead beat Blues 15-9.
Nathan Jackson drove the Men in Black to an 8-1 lead in Q1 with a dominant display at face-off before Blues could draw breath and edge back into the game. Former Hillcroft marksman, Brian Potter, settled easily into his new team with four goals; Nick Smith grabbed a hat-trick and Marc Banas a double.
Blues forced their way back into contention with a patient possession game and a clinical execution of Man-Up opportunities.
“Those long possessions allowed them to get back into the game,” said Dennis Tobin. “But we played a bit better in Q3 and 4, doing enough to keep the game just beyond the reach of the well-disciplined Blues.”
Blues skipper James Kidd added: “It was very frustrating and that first quarter did it for us. We couldn’t pick it up off the face-off and were slow to wake up in defence which allowed them to score quick goals.
“ I think we won the rest of the game so its a bit annoying! Once we settled down, got hold of the ball and started to execute the game plan, we played some really nice lacrosse.”
Blues were a number of regulars down and could only field one sub with Kidd adding: “A loss is a loss but at the moment we’re more focused on the performance than the result and we’re pleased with how it went overall considering the set backs.”
Welwyn continued their table-shaking start to the season, recording their third straight win in the Herts Classic over Hitchin – their first triumph in the rivalry since 2011. The 13-7 win puts them joint top with Hillcroft and Hampstead.
The Warriors started hard and fast with Dave Groves and Hamish Tiley notching early strikes before Hitchin levelled it. LSM Alex Burley, a recruit from Sheffield University, proved a potent addition in midfield as Welwyn stretched their lead to 7-2 at half-time.
Hitchin roared back into the game in the second half and the Warriors defence lead by Ben Stowe between the pipes, with a Man of the Match performance, had to be on top form to keep their lead.
Groves lead the way with five goals while Jack Gerrity and John Horbury both got two.
Welwyn have a bye week this Saturday before heading down to Cardiff for another crucial fixture.
Bristol recorded their second win of the campaign with a good 17-6 victory over Cambridge University.
Charles Stewart Syme excelled at face-off alongside Matt Collis in a powerful middie showing but Freddie Atkins’ live-wire attacking earned him the Man of the Match honours.
“We started a little slow with the defense getting beaten a few times however the offense hit their stride early,” said Guy Oldring.
“We controlled the game for large periods by holding possession and scoring some fantastic team goals. As the game wore on we really became dominant with some superb ball handling and very solid defense.
“The fact that everyone with a short stick on the team scored is a testament to the great team work that we have at the moment. As always the offensive unit led by Kyle McHugh controlled the game well and we feel we are really developing as a team this season and look forward to this weekend.”
Cambridge travelled to Bristol with a depleted side minus their regular goalie. “It was an unfortunate loss and the fact we only had 11 men really began to show in the second half,” said captain Leander Crocker.
“Many thanks goes to Tim for stepping up in goal when we needed him, he may not have stopped all the shots but his defensive leadership and guidance were invaluable.
“Everyone dug deep in offense and we did score some great team effort goals, but Bristol’s strong home team prevailed in the end.”
Cambridge are one of three winless teams and they face a fast-improving Blues side while Hitchin have a crunch fixture in Bristol to re-ignite their season while Cardiff head to Reading.
Week 3 Results
Bristol Bombers 17 – 6 Cambridge
Harlequins 1 – 18 Spencer
Hitchin 7 – 13 Welwyn
Blues 9 – 15 Hampstead
Week 4 Fixtures
Bristol Bombers v Hitchin (12:00pm)
Cambridge v Blues
Reading v Harlequins
Spencer v Hampstead