Flags - Spencer and Hampstead on Flags collision course
Hampstead and Spencer will clash in the Flags semi in a re-run of last year’s controversial showdown.
The Men in Black defeated Spencer but conceded the game at the same stage last year for fielding an ineligible player and the Earlsfield machine advanced to hold onto the Flags that have not been out of their possession for four seasons.
Both teams cruised into the mouth-watering encounter, Hampstead winning 19-4 at Cardiff and Spencer recovering from the Hillcroft league loss with a 23-0 destruction of Purley.
The much-anticipated rematch is not until February 27, four weeks after they meet in the league for the first time this season.
The other side of the draw pitches last year’s runners-up Blues against East Grinstead, who add a Flags semi to their impressive start to the season.
Gritty Blues beat Hitchin 10-6 in tough conditions. The Banstead boys again were sluggish from the first whistle and the visitors went 4-0 up before Dave Howie hauled them back into it and drove them to a 5-4 comeback lead at half time.
“We narrowly beat them in the league fixture and it was always going to be a hard fought game,” said Blues captain Stuart McGregor Dallas. “The weather did very little to motivate either team but Hitchin took an early advantage in the driving rain and had long periods of possession.
“We stormed back to take the lead just before the half time and continued that into the second half and surged ahead.”
Goals from Peter Ross, Ewan Willsmer and vice-captain Dave Howie, who had a towering performance, sealed the semi slot against East Grinstead who beat Bristol last week.
Cardiff proved their commitment to the game when they had to hunt down an alternative venue as their home pitch was ruled unplayable with Hampstead already en route from London.
Their hard work paid off as the game went on just 30 minutes late but the visitors were in imperious form and handed out a 19-4 beating after a tight 2-4 first quarter.
Hampstead’s forward potency started to tell and they moved from a four goal half time lead to pile on the pressure and shut out the Welsh side in the second half.
“Cardiff pulled out all the stops to get this game on by renting, in less than 45 minutes, an excellent 3G pitch and we are grateful to them,” said Hampstead’s Dennis Tobin. “It made the 4-hour bus ride and wait worthwhile.
“Both teams had a slow start and it was a novel experience to have a circle of cones marking out the goal creases. Cardiff has marked its return to the Prem with some solid play-making and good team-work.”
Cardiff captain Ceri Hill added: “It was a tough game and, due to pitch complications, both teams had a very rushed warm up before going straight into the game.
“A great performance from Hampstead though. If they can get their full squad out each week they should be front-runners for the title.
“EG should be a good game this Saturday. Wales trials have been hard on Quins and we’ve picked up injuries to four guys from our firsts squad. Hopefully though we should be able to give a good showing and maybe even pull off an upset.”
Spencer responded with expected ferocity to their first league defeat in 18 months with Rob Holmes enjoying a remarkable afternoon – scoring ten and assisting eight of the 23 goals. Ollie Prescott scored three late on to register his first Prem hat-trick.
“The defeat to Hillcroft taught us a lot and we were able to change things up to great effect against Purley,” said co-captain Tom Leahy.
It is back to league action this Saturday with leaders Reading at Hampstead and East Grinstead traveling to Wales for an intriguing clash with Cardiff.
Hillcroft entertain Hitchin looking to underscore their victory at Spencer with another win against a team with the talent and fight to ensure the Croft will have to be at the top of their game.
Purley have another shot at Spencer.
Flags R2 Results
Cardiff 4 - 19 Hampstead
East Grinstead 12 - 6 Bristol Bombers
Spencer 23 - 0 Purley
Blues 10 - 6 Hitchin
Cardiff v East Grinstead
Hampstead v Reading (1:00pm)
Hillcroft v Hitchin
Purley v Spencer
Blues v Bristol Bombers