Hackney came into this game looking to arrest a run of 3 successive defeats, and with Belsize next weekend, it was important to try to build some momentum. After handing out some early season spankings, the downturn in the weather had corresponded with a downturn in results. As such, one would expect a fast start from the home team to try to stop the rot. However Hackney had other ideas, and instead decided to embark on one of the slowest starts in the history of Rugby.

Old Verulamians gained early field position and although Hackney managed to turn them over the first time metres from the tryline, the 2nd wave of attack sent their winger clear for the first try of the day and the extras were added. Shortly after the 2nd try followed. Some big runs from the OV’s forwards put Hackney on the back foot and their fly-half then put a kick behind Davis. The OV flying winger then outpaced both Davis and Rowbottom (himself a late replacement for Watmore who had decided that the warm-up was quite enough exercise for one day) to tough down in the corner. The extras were missed – 12-0 OV’s.

It soon became 17-0 after one of the OV forwards broke a couple of tackles before touching down. At this point, Hackney decided enough is enough and, after sending on Chamberlain who had been too busy dreaming of chucking some prawns on the barbie to start the match, began to play like we know Hackney can. Some good field position and strong forward play, including a much improved scrum, gave Hackney a penalty not far from the line. Quick thinking from O’Hara enabled him to use his recently acquired ‘holiday-weight’ to barrel over the line for Hackneys first score of the day.

The momentum was now with Hackney who continued to hammer at the OVs line. A 5-metre scrum was in the process of being pushed over by the resurgent Hackney pack, until the OV’s number 12 decided to come over all Wayne Rooney and boot the ball out of the scrum just before try-time. What looked like a certain penalty try and yellow card was interpreted differently by the referee who awarded another scrum, which subsequently was won by Old Verulamians. However following an excellent take from Davis under the high ball on the wing, Hackney put a few phases together and the ball was spun to O’Hara who, ignoring a 14-on-1 overlap, went over for his second try. He added the extras for 17-12 at half time.

The 2nd half continued as the first had finished with Hackney dominating territory and possession. This pressure eventually told with a succession of penalties granting Hackney a line-out 5 metres out. Bowers hit his man and the pack rumbled over the try-line, Chamberlain touching down after robbing the ball from Jones at the last second. Hackney had a little under 10 minute to hold out for a 19-17 win and remained camped in the oppo’s 22. However a lightning break from OV’s 14 resulted in a momentum shift and, with a penalty advantage, the Verulamian fly-half fired the ball deep into the Hackney 22. A strong kick-chase forced Rowbottom into touch with OV’s driving the resulting line-out over for the 4th score of the day and a 22-19 lead. There was time for just one more attack but with Rowbottom tearing down the right wing, the ball was knocked loose and the game was over – a 22-19 defeat.

Lessons will be learnt from this defeat, such as don’t give the oppo a 17-0 head start, but if Hackney play for 80 minutes like they did for the final 60, then it shouldn’t be long before we are back to winning ways, starting at Belsize this Saturday.