A fifth consecutive win proved to be a step too far for the Gargoyles, as they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against a strong Old Albanians side. Despite being 10 points ahead mid-way through the second half, the team were left shattered as the visitors capitalised on Hackney mistakes to overturn the deficit. Credit is due to OAs for taking their chances though Hackney will be disappointed with conceding soft tries – 3 out of the 4 very much avoidable. The offload that didn’t need to be given, the bouncing ball that wasn’t collected and the first-up tackle missed were all contributing factors to the Gargoyles’ first league defeat of the season.

The disappointment evident in the first paragraph should not, however, disguise the fact that Hackney were playing a team who had been relegated from Merit Table 2 the previous year, and had also enjoyed a strong start to their season. Right from the kick-off the home side piled into OAs as if the game was only to last 5 minutes, with an intensity rarely seen from a side eager to shake the tag of slow starters. It took barely a couple of minutes for Hackney to get their hands on the ball, get good field position, go through the phases and get the ball out wide to the rampaging Pete Walsham, looking to sew up the man of the match award early on by diving over for his first try of the season. The conversion was missed, the beginning of another patchy day with the boot for captain Matt Hanton.

No matter though, as more good play from the forwards led to the second Hackney try. Chad Burke (making his Hackney debut in the second row) and Glenn Prowse carried with commitment and aggression, consistently breaking the OAs fringe defence and giving the backs a platform. This was gratefully accepted by Blake Armstrong, diving over in the corner after a neat 8-9-14 move from the back of the scrum.

Heading into half-time, such was the Hackney dominance that conceding an OAs try felt like a mere blip. However the 10-7 half-time lead should have been significantly larger – 10 missed points from the kicking tee and a number of try-scoring chances spurned were to prove ultimately decisive.

Hackney came out after half-time with the usual demand to be more ruthless ringing in their ears. For once, this was heeded – Neil Cunningham making light of his return to the back row with a typically bullish run from 20m out, carrying 3 OAs defenders over the line with him for Hackney’s third try. With the conversion successful a 10-point cushion was opened up, which had the effect of Hackney taking their foot off the gas. OAs got their second try as an offload was thrown into the hands of the OAs winger, who gratefully accepted the gift. With Hackney’s only response a converted penalty, OAs duly increased the pressure, forcing a number of penalties of their own and gaining territory deep into Hackney’s half. The Hackney back line began to crumble as injuries took their toll, scrum half Shaun Rooke being forced to the wing after the loss of Ben Paterson. With almost all of the play coming through their strong centre pairing, who broke the Hackney line time and again, OAs took advantage and strolled over for their third try.

A point down, with 6 minutes to go, Hackney tried everything to regain the lead. Possession was regained from the kick off but with fatigue setting in and composure lacking no field position for any sort of score could be forced. With risks being taken and passes being forced mistakes were inevitable and when a hopeful kick through from the OAs winger led to a mix-up in the Hackney defence, the final try meant that the game was sealed for OAs.

Despite disappointment in defeat, 4 wins from the first 5 games after promotion is a good return and the team remain top of the league. With a week off to recuperate the team will be eager to bounce back against Bishops Stortford on the 27th November.

Man of the match: Glenn Prowse. One of a number of good performances in a losing cause, asked to step up to the front row for the second week in a row and accepted without hesitation. Carried aggressively and was always a danger round the park, setting up field position and dumping OAs defenders on their backs with some typically bullocking runs.