Played at Alliance Park, Hendon beat Cranbrook (27 – 22). Hendon played with great spirit and determination to beat the well drilled Kent Club Cranbrook in the toughest match that they have competed in so far this season. This was a true test of determining the No 1 amateur Club in the London & SE Division from the 150 Clubs from the 7 Counties that were eligible to enter. Hendon can now claim to be the No 1 Club in 2020.
“This is the greatest victory that Hendon have ever achieved in a competition”, commented David Gershlick, the Hendon President and I must congratulate our Captain Cian Hynes and his 1st team squad and without doubt our Coach Phil “Smudger” Smith. Since joining in just two seasons Smudger has masterminded our success with his weekly coaching and training session in Allianz Park and the touchline management on match days which is borne out with the Club’s current top of the table position”. Smith paid compliment to his Hendon squad “ I couldn’t pick a “man of the match” as all the boys played their part in attack by taking every opportunity and scoring four tries whilst in defence to keep Cranbrook down to two tries that gave the home outfit the best possible advantage to win this great game for Hendon Rugby.
In the match it certainly was not all one way traffic. Hendon were penalised in the 2nd minute trying to run from defence only to concede a penalty that Cranbrook duly converted 0-3. However from the restart Hendon held the visitors in their own territory and after a wave of attacks were finally rewarded after a backline interchange between Rob Casey and Chris Kiyingi with Toby Ikwueke finishing in the corner; Captain Hynes then converted from the touchline and Hendon were ahead 7-3. Hendon came back into attack again with the forwards carrying after another text book backline move with Dan Watterson being stopped short but 2nd row Junior Farao was on hand to collect from the maul and crash over for Hendon’s second try with Hynes converting 14-3. Now midway through the period it was Cranbrook upping their play and a defensive error saw them score in the corner
To close in at 14-8. Cranbrook maintained the pressure which saw them camped on the Hendon 5 metre line but the Hendon defence tackles held good until the eventual long pass to an undefended wing saw them score a 2nd try and a 14-13 scoreline. Cranbrook now saw their opportunity to take the advantage with Hendon defence at full stretch but an offside gave Cranbrook the chance for the long kick slotted through for a ½ time score in the visitors favour at 14-16
Into the 2nd half and Hendon kick off and within two mins claimed a penalty out wide which just went short with the Cranbrook fullback defensive kick being charged down followed by them being penalised on their 22. Hynes took a quick penalty for forwards Jake Dunne and Ronan Jones to carry to the Cranbrook line; from broken play scrum half Billy Burrell picked up and dived over to Hendon once more back in the lead at 19-16 after only 5 mins.
After the restart and a line-out clearance it was Rossa Dooley setting up the next Hendon attack with several mauls and strong Cranbrook defence to stop the home side from attack but TJ O’Sullivan saw the opportunity to break clear on the 22 and score Hendon’s 4th try out to move into a commanding position at 24-16. The next 15 mins belonged to Cranbrook but excellent Hendon defence only allowing them a way back as Hendon conceded two further defensive errors for the score to close in at 24-22. Front row forward Luke Pollard led the next attack by Hendon as both teams had to summon up that extra strength from playing on the superfast 4G surface of Allianz Park; from the next breakdown Casey tried to break through the defence but was stopped then a kick by Hynes over the defence gave winger Robby Burrell a chance to touchdown but after consideration by the Referee, the try was disallowed. Hendon maintained their attack and were awarded a penalty, midway into Cranbrook territory that Hynes converted for a fragile lead of 27-22 with 5 mins still on the clock. Cranbrook were not yet beaten and put Hendon under pressure in the closing minutes but Hendon held on for the final whistle and win this epic final for Hendon Rugby.
The award of the Divisional Trophy was made by David Williams, London Director of Competitions who congratulated both teams on a superb performance.
Hendon now qualify for the RFU Semi-Final against the South West Division winners Old Cryptians from Gloucester scheduled for Easter Saturday at Hendon on April 11th with the Final at the Twickenham Stadium on Sunday 3rd May against the other semi-final of the Midlands and North Clubs to determine the England Champions.