When New Zealand schools come on tour to the UK, you know you are in for a serious game of rugby if you happen to be on their schedule. They are always, big, committed, physical, and skilful. Little wonder their national side is so good.
Hampton found that out to their cost last night against Dilworth, losing 17-3, but not without first frustrating the New Zealanders and drawing glowing praise from just home and away support alike â€“ that is correct, away support. There was an army of Dilworth supporters, from parents who had followed the tour, to a big group of Dilworth old boys, young and old, now living in London who had come to see their old school. It was great to see.
Hampton arrived already on the back foot though. They have been utterly decimated by injuries so far this season, and when you see players of the quality of Roman Malin-Hiscock on the touchline, you know the boys on the field are going to have to fight for everything.
Fight they did though. Dilworth came at them with everything the power of their running was astonishing yet time and time again Hampton were putting them down. It was a night for the chop tackle, and Hamptonâ€™s back three proved just as able on that front as any back rower around.
The trouble was that not only were Dilworth powerful, they also had the ability to release the offload, a combination that no defence is going to enjoy. Throw into that a level of aggression and power at the ruck that saw them clear everything from their own ball, making it lightening quick, and regularly spoil Hampton ball, and you have a problem. If there were one lesson that UK teams could have learned, it was that, make your clear out aggressive and powerful â€“ it makes life an awful lot easier.
It was not all Dilworth though, far from it, Hampton had their own spells of pressure. Not least over the last five minutes or so of the game, where they pounded away at the Dilworth line only to be held up, and dropped short time and time again. It was, in fairness, outstanding defence from Dilworth, but you felt for Hampton; they deserved a score.
That last five minutes came because of fitness though. When Hampton did have the ball for a sustained period they played with real tempo, making the Dilworth defence work hard. In defence Hamptonâ€™s refusal to give in made Dilworth work harder than they wanted to, it frustrated them.
Dilworthâ€™s coaching staff could be heard commenting on how impressed they were with Hamptonâ€™s tempo, noting that they must be a fit side, so it proved in that last five minutes.
It was a loss though, and praise must be given to Dilworth, they came within a whisker of promotion to New Zealandâ€™s school rugby â€˜Aâ€™ division last year, and you can see why, they are a serious outfit.
Their second try was the crucial score though. With a 7-3 lead going into the final play before half time, the touring side had a rumble down the left hand touchline before managing to burst through to flop over in the corner.
That took the lead to 12-3, not an unreachable target for Hampton by any means, but one that was likely going to need tries to overcome. More important though was the timing of it, coming right on the stroke of half time it was a hammer-blow for Hampton, who had held out magnificently well to stay in check at just four points adrift.
Hampton did brilliantly well not to let it affect them though. Dilworth were clearly frustrated by having their score kept down by Hampton and were absolutely hammering away at them for a solid fifteen minutes or so at the start of the second half. Hampton did eventually yield, just running short of numbers, but such was the amount of time that they had kept Dilworth out, it felt almost ok â€“ as if only conceding one try over that period of time was while not a mini victory, no mean feat either.
That was to be the final score of the game though as it ended 17-3 to the touring side.
It was a game where both sides came out well though. Dilworth demonstrated that they are a top team, a powerful unit who will trouble anyone â€“ particularly their centres â€“ while Hampton won admires from all sides for their gutsy defence and never say die attitude. That it was done with such an injury ravaged squad only made that point more true. There is clearly some depth at Hampton.
Full Time: Hampton 3-17 Dilworth