This weekend in the Southern Premiership, there were a number of huge battles at both the top and bottom of the league with undefeated win streaks being broken and several teams making a push towards the top of the league going into their Christmas break.
At the top of the table, London-based Hillcroft continued their fine form with a 14-4 victory at home to Bristol Bombers to ensure they go into the Christmas break as league leaders with Bristol just 3 points off from bottom spot, where Purley remain having been resoundingly beaten 22 – 0 at home against East Grinstead. This result means East Grinstead will leap-frog Walcountian Blues into 6th-place on goal difference, with Blues beating Cardiff Harlequins 11-7 at home to take them within 1 point of the team from the Welsh capital with a game in hand on them.
Over in Berkshire, 3rd-placed Reading Wildcats hosted 5th-placed Spencer in what would turn out to be a demolition job from the visitors who emerged as 22-3 victors to cement their league position and extend their goal difference to the highest in the league. With at least 2 games in hand on the teams above them, Spencer will be looking to kick on after the Christmas break and push themselves back to the top of the table where they are used to accommodating, having won the league for the past 2 years.
The SEMLA game of the week was found over in London where undefeated Hampstead faced 2nd-placed Hitchin. With a record of 4 wins, 4 losses for Hitchin, many expected unbeaten Hampstead to maintain their 100% win ratio and record a big win at home however having a club with so many highly-experienced players from the US & Canada proved to not always be the easiest route to victory, and with many of their international stars returning home early for Christmas, Hampstead were forced into fielding a side of locally-based talent including a rookie university goalkeeper. Hitchin needed no invitation to start well and took full advantage of this weakened opposition side by going into first quarter time 4-2 up. The second quarter followed much the same suit as the firsts and Hitchin went into half-time leading 7-3. Coming out of the blocks fast in the second half, the visitors further asserted their dominance in the game finishing the quarter 13-5 leaders allowing them to take their foot off the gas in the final quarter ending the game as 16-7 victors and blowing the title race wide open. Whilst Hampstead’s team may not have been at the level we have come to expect, credit has to go to Hitchin, led by Wales international Rhodri Stanford who not only registered a 100% face-off success rate, but also bagged himself a dominating 6 goals and 3 assists, for delivering a result which cements their 2nd-place going into 2016.
This leaves the race for the title incredibly tight going into 2016 with 3 of the London teams, Spencer, Hampstead & Hillcroft all vying it out for honours on 1 loss each. Hillcroft sit top of the table having played more games than their rivals, but they have also 1 draw to their name. With Hampstead facing both Hillcroft and Spencer in January, this table will undoubtedly see movement between the high-flyers and with the bottom teams facing others around them, we can expect exciting games in their battles for survival.
We look forward to updating you on all the exciting progress on all the SEMLA Premiership games in the new year!