Hackney competed hard with a well drilled and sizeable (especially in the front 5) Welsh side that lie 3rd in the league. The first 5 minutes could basically summarise the whole game: Hackney competed very well and often forced Welsh into mistakes and indeed threatened ourselves, but the first three Hackney scrums were lost against the head, and when the ball was hooked we were driven off. We were very good in open play - defensively solid and worked our balls off BUT were on roller skates in the scrum. This was ultimately hugely costly for us.

Early in the game Hackney fought off some concerted Welsh pressure deep in our own half to remain on terms and frustrate the home side. We then had a concerted spell of pressure in their half and looked dangerous. Line out worked well, with Johnny Crockett outstanding in attack winning good clean ball and defence with much disruption of the Welsh ball (alongside the once again outstanding Ben Chamberlain, who disrupted superbly at 4). There was good use of the pick and drive which saw us gain 20-30 metres and eventually have numbers on the short side - Paddy just failed to get onto the end of Alex's pass when he was clean in for the line 5m out.

The first half was largely a closely fought and relatively even contest; Hackney used the kicking game effectively with well coordinated chases forcing Welsh into mistakes. But by about 20 mins I had counted 5 of our own scrum ball lost... undermining momentum the boys fought hard to gain. Welsh pressed forward and forced a penalty on the 22 which the kicker shanked to give us a let off and leave it 0-0. Shortly after, an angled kick across to Finny's wing bounced awkwardly...Finny shielded the Welsh attacker off the pitch but the 12 picked up the loose ball and stepped past two Hackney defenders that slipped in the greasy conditions to score under the posts; 0-7. In truth, this was quite a lucky break for them but they took advantage clinically.

Hackney's response was impressive. An aggressive chase off the restart put Welsh under pressure; they kicked straight to Andy Finn who sent the ball deeper into their half, but was taken late. Penalty Hackney - must have been close to the 10m line and to the left but James Hardwick struck it beautifully to bring us back into it at 3-7. SHortly after HAckney attacked again, the impressive James Dawson making a sharp break, leading to a 4 man line out and great ball from Johnny Crockett. The backs took advantage with Nuno (who looked threatening all day but didn't get much ball) breaking and carrying well. Welsh infringed and Hardwick once again struck it sweetly to make it 6-7 on the stroke of half time. We were right in this.

The story of the second half was really Hackney coming close but suffering from the energy sapping scrums and ball deprivation as Welsh dominated the set piece. Early in the half Chamberlain was pinged for going off his feet with Hackney under pressure. Welsh kicked to corner and drove the line out. Hackney had an escape when the 10 knocked on easily but the resulting scrum was turned over once more and sharp Welsh attacking saw them easily work numbers to make it 6-12. Hackney came back again but continued to suffer at the scrum. Territory was gained but an attacking line out wasted due to confusion between Dom and the line out, with a free kick for failing to throw in. Welsh took advantage of possession aggressively and pushed us back. Ultimately, a penalty was conceded and Welsh pushed on to 6-15.

Back we came again, driving deep into their 22 and a couple of phases later won a penalty close to the 10m line again - Hardwick struck well but it just missed right - so still 6-15. But Hackney still threatened and asked questions, with some superb performance in the backs. Finny, looking in superb form all game, sparkled and made a scintilating break down the right hand side, finding James Dawson and then Nuno who continued the move well. Penalty to Hackney (not kickable) and sent to corner - more good line out ball and we were camped deep in the Welsh half with a series of forward rumbles. We looked certain to leave with at least 3 points, and quite possibly 7 but just as Welsh were looking stretched, Hackney knocked on. Welsh of course won their own scrum ball and the momentum was lost....

Back Welsh came and really killed us at the scrum - Blair was now on and hooked the ball effectively, however, it was sliding out of the back of the scrum in the slippy conditions and under pressure from Welsh drive. From one of these scrums Welsh won turnover ball and could easily work numbers to score and make it 22-6. Harsh on us, but they were clinical, probably the best scrum in the league (their coach mentioned how they had butchered Hamptonians and Actonians at the scrum - front row have played national league level and second rows were enormous ginger lumps...) and had more possession than us. But we pushed them very close and, for me, it was key area of the game and a few pivotal moments that let things slip away for us. We have to improve the scrum and we have to try to be more clinical when we have concerted pressure or a real scoring chance. If we are in possession on their 5m line we should be leaving with 3 points at the very least given the offensive threats we have...

Once again there were a sprinkling of stand out performers: Ben Chamberlain was off the scale once more with a monstrous tackle count, strong ball carrying and turnovers won, Alex O'Hara captaining for the day, hit hard and kicked intelligently, James Dawson has been in superb form this season and that continued with some sharp breaks with excellent lines of running. Nuno had a very good debut in the centres; carried the ball well and looked dangerous. The back 3 of Hardwick, Finn and Rowbottom were once again very solid in tricky conditions to field the ball and looked dangerous in attack. The forwards battled hard and were superb in the loose but unfortunately were well beaten at scrum time.

MOTM: Johnny Crockett - a superb performance on debut, winning good line out ball, disrupting theirs and doing a great deal of work in the loose.